The Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles
In the previous pieces of the Storytelling Species Series, we have explored how individual attitudes, beliefs, and thinking styles can influences our individual perceptions of reality. We also looked at how stories can influence our understanding of reality (inner and outer). We even explored how stories can become shared narratives that serve as foundational building blocks of our great civilizations and complicated societies. We also looked at how other kind of stories (e.g., conspiracy myths) can pull us together and shred our shared reality. These types of stories are carefully crafted narratives created by people craving attention and power and such people make up stories designed to tear us apart and make us distrust each other. They do this because in a civilization that is in a state of chaos and distrust, it is much easier to carve out a group of people who they can manipulate and control.
Each and every person alive today contributes to the quality of our shared reality–at local levels, at national levels, and at global levels. It all begins with our individual understanding of reality (our inner world), which is contributed to our shared reality (our outer world) through our thoughts, words, and deeds (conscious and unconscious), through our feelings (conscious and unconscious), and through our sensations, specifically, what we pay attentiontoand what we ignore. We also contribute to our individual and shared reality through our instinctual and intuitive responses to what happens to us as we journey through space and time.
Many of us know thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition as components of psychological tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Type. Finding out what our default psychological operating system is can help us navigate the world better such as figuring out what kind of job or career we might be good at doing or happiest doing. Most of us consider this knowledge not much more important than knowing what our astrological sign is. But I suggest this knowledge is critical to understand not only how to navigate the outer world, but also how to navigate our inner world (the hidden world inside of us).
One of the most tragic aspects of being a modern human today is an all out denial of the reality of one’s inner world. Denying the reality of our inner world denies us the ability to navigate it. We must know our inner world in the same way we know the physical world (the outer world). We must know where the dangerous areas are inside of ourselves and why they are dangerous. We must know where the safe and nurturing areas are inside ourselves and how to navigate between these hidden places. Without this inner knowledge, we can feel lost, anxious, and fearful in the world.
This is what crystalized for me the day I met the bubble maker. The quality of our individual batch of consciousness is how we know and understand our outer (physical) world as well as our inner world (hidden world). The quality of our stream of consciousness can be greatly influenced by how we employ our thinking style, or how much we allow our feeling style to help us understand the world around us. The quality of our consciousness can be increased or decreased by the degree of sensation information we pay attention to (e.g., who is around us, how are we feeling around them) as well as the degree to which we are aware of how we are responding to people and things around us (i.e., are we acting unconsciously, in an instinctual way to people and things around us). When we react unconsciously, this impacts how much intuition we can access in the moment.
Our individual batch of consciousness is constantly changing for it needs to be dynamically balanced moment by moment with what remains unconscious inside of us. Many of us who have grown up in modern Western society are taught from very young ages to deny the reality of our inner world. We were taught to do this to survive the ways in which power is wielded in our super-huge, mega system of consciousness. We have evolved these systems of being because they have been super successful strategies to survive in an unpredictable and complicated world. These systems have allowed human beings to dominate the outer world.
When we deny the reality of our inner worlds, we do not to stick out, we do not individuate (i.e., we do not become a singular and unique human being as we were meant to be). We do not grow up to become the person only we can be. By not being unique and different we fit nicely inside our system of consciousness that values sameness (i.e., people and things that are readily replaceable within the system). By being the same as everyone else, we do not draw undo attention to ourselves by individuals who are more powerful than us and who could do us harm. Especially if our uniqueness and difference threatens their view of reality or if our uniqueness threaten’s their power (watch out then!).
When we become a target of a more powerful person, it is bad. We all know this. So most of us go along with the system because it is easier, and we can have comfortable enough life doing so. If we play it right, we can even possibly grow to have more power in the system too. However, do not delude yourself that if you become a person with power that you are immune to the corrupting force of power. Power corrupts and corrupts completely. It takes a great deal of consciousness to withstand the corrupting force of power. This can only be done by balancing power with honesty and humility. Since most of us lack awareness of our inner worlds, it is rare to find powerful people who can balance power with honesty and humility. It is also rare because our current system of consciousness does not reward individuals for doing this.
In addition to being very vulnerable to the corrupting forces of power, when we do not know our inner world, our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being is greatly diminished. We become victims to our own unconsciousness, which condemns us to a life of ignorance that can incur terrible damage to our psyche. This damage is readily visible to other people because unconscious people are much more likely to participate in spontaneous acts of violence that they inflict on “other” people because they have projected that part of themself on the “other”, refusing to see it lives inside them and it is themself they are destroying.
If you think our current system of consciousness stinks and needs to change, the only lasting way to change the system is to change yourself. You change yourself by knowing more about yourself inside and out, which means understanding your inner/hidden world is real and has a reality that impacts you in powerful and significant ways. Doing this can be painful for it means going into the darkness of your soul and finding your inner divide.
If you are human, you have an inner divide. It is what allows us to be conscious. It becomes dangerous for us and other when we remain ignorant of this inner divide because this is how our unconsciousness flows into the world (our shared reality). When it does, all sorts of mischief and mayhem happens. So, if you are serious about creating a more beautiful world, get busy getting to know what is living inside of you–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is only by knowing all of one’s self that a person can balance the oppositional powers always moving and flowing inside of us. It takes an equal and opposite force inside of us to balance a powerful force. When we remain unconscious of the psychological forces inside of us, we weld power in lopsided and destructive ways that hurt us and hurt others.
Recipe for Making a Better Batch of Reality Bubble Mix
Step1: Finding the Right Balance Between the Stories Rising Inside of You and the Ones Swirling All Around You, Especially the Ones You Choose to Eat
The Bubble Maker
On this day, I biked to the Big Wheel at National Harbor in Maryland, going across the Woodrow Wilson bridge. On some days when I cross this bridge when the wind is blowing it feels like flying. It was on my way back after this wonderful ride that I meet this extraordinary woman making gorgeous giant bubbles.
Earlier that day, I wished I had asked a group of men who were practicing a dance with scarfs that they waved above their heads if I could film them. The dance was so beautiful, even though I thought it was quite feminine for men to be dancing with scarfs. But I was too scared to ask them. Then, on my way home, I saw two construction workers horse playing after work. One held his hands up like a boxer looking for a good punch on his friend. His friend waved his t-shirt at him to distract his friend from landing a good punch. They were laughing…that’s how I knew they were playing around. And then, I knew what the men dancing with scarfs were doing–it was a highly ritualized war dance!
So, when I saw the Bubble Maker, I said to myself… ‘I’m not going to let this one by!’ I asked her and she said yes. We had such an amazing conversation as I filmed her making beautiful bubbles. She told me this batch bubble making solution was not her best batch. She explained each bubble mixture is a little different. Some batches make bubbles better than others, so she was struggling with this one. Despite this, she was a master bubble maker, and I got many beautiful shots of giant bubbles. It was magical in every sense of the word.
Step 2: Synthesize, ferment, and transmute your flow of consciousness.
Bubbles of Consciousness
As I watched her, I thought about a conversation I was having with my good friends in Germany about how the human mind is capable of crafting and believing such fantastic versions of reality. I began to think of these bizarre versions of reality were like bubbles created by the mind. Thus, the idea of Reality Bubbles popped into my mind. Some mind bubbles are very stable and last for a long time. Other Reality Bubbles are inherently unstable and pop almost as soon as they leave our minds. Most Alternative Reality Bubbles will pop soon after leaving the mind because the Rock of Reality is very hard.
I imagined the human mind is like the wand the woman making bubbles was holding in the park. With our minds, we make bubbles of reality that we put out into the world, which are visible through our thoughts, words, and actions. Consciousness is like the bubble making mixture in the bucket. As human beings, we channel and distill consciousness continually as it flows through us as experienced by our circumstances, station in life, visions, and dreams (sometimes nightmares). The consciousness contained inside of us is used to generate ideas that inform our individual actions. Thus, the quality of our individual consciousness determines the strength of the mixture used to manufacture the ideas we put out into the world through our Wand of Mind. It is the same wand every human being uses to put out bubbles of reality into the world, but the mixture of consciousness used can be vastly between humans.
Step 3: Explore, discover, repair, and revive your inner landscapes.
Reviving Our Lost Inner Landscapes
This mixture also forms our inner landscapes, mind-scapes. These inner landscapes are illuminated by the light of our conscious understanding. This is how we come to know who we are. This inner light of consciousness is what we inherited when we stepped across the threshold of consciousness many thousands of years ago. Despite all this time, this part of our consciousness is the smallest part of us. Vast amounts of every human mind remains cloaked under the darkness of inner unconsciousness.
But this is what we are here to do–to explore, discover, and claim inner landscapes by illuminating them with the light of our awaken consciousness. The more unconsciousness contained inside your mind, the less stable your inner landscapes will be as well as the bubbles of reality you manufacture with your mind and put into the world through your actions.
This is why it is important to see more of who were are as a human being, which always includes good and bad parts of ourselves. To make stable bubbles that are able to last through time, we need to maintain dynamic balances between good and bad elements existing inside of us and flowing all around us all of the time. We get glimpses of these cloaked areas through thoughts, dreams, and visions. But more often we become aware of our unconsciousness because we get triggered by the unconscious content living inside of us. They pop up just like instincts pop into action due to environmental stimuli that spurs an animal into action. When an animal acts based upon their instincts, nature has already worked out the dynamic balances over billions and billions of years evolution.
However, as newly awaken conscious beings, we have a lot to understand and work out dynamic sustainable balances. This is hard work and it is far easier to revert back to simpler ways of seeing the world such as black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, and then choose one side or the other side to rally along side. But, ultimately all opposites are inseparable because inside goes with outside, up goes with down, light goes with night. Every opposite is inseparable from its other side just like the other side of a coin. You can cut off the other side, but it is still there…the coin is simply thinner… and that is exactly what we do when we split reality and exist in only one side–we make it smaller. Another serious problem of existing only on onside or the other side of the Coin of Realityis a fatal lopsidedness will result. Living in our huge human collectives with lots of technology can delay the consequences of this fatal lopsidedness, but not forever… that is the Gift of Reality… it will always flow towards balance in the end, and as you are carried in this flow, you will hit the Rocks of Reality along the way.
So, think about your thoughts and how they are turn into actions in the world, which shape and create our shared reality.
I know this is all pretty abstract, but perhaps you will read the story I am writing about this when I finally finish it (Sapience: The Moment is Now). For now, I continue to make these mini movies to help me feel grounded to the Earth and connected to all the beautiful life around me and inside of me. By appreciating the beauty of Earth, I am able to continue gathering inner strength to pull back the projections I have put out into the world. As I pull them back, I find my inner reservoir of consciousness is replenished, which helps me endure.
Projecting our consciousness out into the world is perfectly natural because we cannot see ourselves when we are first born into the world unless we look in a mirror. That is what projections do. They allow us to see ourselves through others.
The trick is seeing: “Oh – that is me!” And, reclaiming that part of ourself that has been temporally lost into the world as a project. This is your power. This is all in my book… but I still must find deeper calm to write again since the latest calamity befell me and my family.
Step 4: Be here, now, that is all we ever have… everything we know, do, feel, become is wrapped in the now.
It is up to each of us to find critical inner balances between the self of the present and the self of the future. It is simply the price of being a conscious creature, and so, it must be navigated. At times, it can be very hard navigating between the needs, desires, fears, and fantasies of present self with the concerns and needs of future self, but that is what we are called to do a conscious human beings who have the gift of knowing.
Following are some of the activities I do that have helped me navigate my inner divide, which exists inside every human being. Often, it comes down to calming down my self-talk (the thing we call thinking and prize so much as modern human beings). Alan Watts often says that thinking is a good servant but a bad master. This is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism that the Western trained mind has a very hard time understanding.
Nature helps us see ourselves in balance with everything else. Being outside, we can step outside of our minds and open us to other ways of knowing and understanding ourself in relationship to everyone and everything else. But to do this, one must be willing to slow down and look! I’ve made a series of nature videos throughout the months of lockdown and social distancing due to the global pandemic, which required individuals to put the well-being and health of others ahead of themselves–that is why we were asked to wear masks and keep distances, not because we were being controlled by evil politicians and scientists. My goodness the stories circulating on the Internet are so creative and more entertaining in conspiracy myths than a Marvel movie. I would ask those flocking to such narratives, what is it inside of you that these stories are activating? If a story you read makes your blood pressure rise, your heart beat faster, your anger increase, who is trying to manipulate you to their point of view? Instead, go outside. Let your own inner truth rise. If you are holding your inner split in balance, you will feel peace, you will feel confidence, you will feel in control and trust yourself to know who is telling you porky (aka bullshit) and who is telling you something real (be it good or bad). Life is complicated. Nature is complicated. We are constantly surrounded by complications and need each other to understand and navigate a complicated world as we travel inside very complicated collectives (i.e., our super-huge civilizations). To see the full nature series, click here: Have You Been Outside Today?
Description: Think about the resolutions you made this year: to quit smoking, eat better, or get more exercise. If you’re like most people, you probably abandoned those resolutions within a few weeks. That’s because change is hard. Behavioral scientist Katy Milkman explains how we can use our minds to do what’s good for us.
Towards the end, Katy says, “So often we don’t understand the forces of opposition inside of us, such as the desires of present me (I want to eat that ice cream now) and the consequences of future me (I’ll have to deal with the extra load of calories and fat that might be bad for my weight, cholesterol, mood).” Through out the episode, she gives plenty of examples where her present me created problems for her future me. She said she found it far more productive to approach these situations as an engineering problem rather than falling back to judgemental self-talk (also known as thinking). To do this, a person needs to recognize the forces of opposition operating inside themself, such as Seinfeld’s conflict between Night Guy and Morning Guy and Day Guy. between present self and future self honestly and fully without judging them as lazy, no good, stupid, or anything else one has been told by family members, friends, and culture about the behavior.
Basically, my take away from Katy’s presentation is that anything that trips us up and subverts us from achieving our long-term goals is human. It is normal. And, it can be handled by understanding the inner conflict and engineering simple work arounds. To do this, we need to see the forces at work honestly and fully without judging them (e.g., I’m a lazy, no good, stupid *#$). Often we internalize negative self talk because we have been told this by family, friends, and our culture. It is easy to label and judge. It is much harder to see our internal conflict, which in an inner spilt due to being a consciousness creature, honestly and to accept it as part of one’s self that must be loved and nurtured just as much as the parts of ourself that are heralded as good traits (e.g., over-achieving guy or gal, bringing home the bacon guy or gal, or anything else we or others label as desirable behaviors).
Watts often liked to ask in his lectures: “Why don’t you know what you want?”
“First, you don’t know what want because you haven’t thought about it or you’ve only thought superficially about it. Then when you somebody forces him to think about it and go through and say yeah I think I’d like this, I think I like that, I think I’d like the other as the middle stage. Then you get beyond that say: “Is that what I really want? The end news day, now I don’t think that’s it. I might be satisfied with it for a while and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, but it’s not really what I want.”
“Why don’t you really know what you want two reasons that you don’t really know what you’re not number one you have it.”
“Number two, you don’t know yourself because you never can. The Godhead is never an object of its own knowledge, just as a knife doesn’t cut itself, fire doesn’t burn itself, light doesn’t illumine itself. It’s always an endless mystery to itself.”
“I don’t know.”
“And this I don’t know, other than the infinite interior of the Spirit, this I don’t know is the same thing as I love, I let go and I don’t try to force or control. It’s the same thing as humility, and so the Upanishads say, “If you think that you understand brahmin, you do not understand it and have yet to be instructed further.”
“If you know that you do not understand it (dharma), then you truly understand for the brahmin is unknown to those who know it and known to those who know it. And the principle is that anytime you as it were voluntarily let up control, in other words cease to cling to yourself, you have an access of power because you’re wasting energy all the time and self-efense trying to manage things trying to force things to perform (the way you think things ought to be–like Rush H. Limbaugh–lol!). The moment you stop doing that that wasted energy is available. Therefore, you are in that sense having that energy available. You are one with the Divine Principle. You have the energy.”
“When you’re trying however to act as if you were God–that is to say you don’t trust anybody and you’re the dictatorand you have to keep everybody in line–you lose the divine because what you’re doing is simply defending yourself. So then the principle is the more you give it away, the more it comes back. Now, you say I don’t have the courage to give it away I’m afraid. And you can only overcome this by realizing you better give it away because there’s no way of holdings onto it.”
Haunted and the Edge
The haunted and the edge offer much in understanding our inner realities better, but they are often taboo and little understood. This is a playlist created by the Last DJ of Earth who is trying to save survivors of Earth after a global catastrophe. He hacks Multinational satellites to broadcast his musical sermons, working day and night to bring down Earth’s new overlords–the ones who worship money. Consciousness is the key. The Sapience Series tells the tale. Follow Sapience: The Moment is Now for when Book 1 is available.
You are beautiful. You are vital to this now. So, take care of yourself. Stay safe, stay well, and find some time to cultivate your beautiful patch of consciousness for it connects you to me and to all of life and the natural world! This is how we create a more beautiful world by seeing the beauty in each other, even when we disagree about things.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was working on my story while listening to NPR, as is my habit. I remember perking up and paying attention when This American Life introduced the subject of this episode: Bloody Feelings — Stories about the Power of Blood. The stories were not at all what I was expecting from the title.
Act 1 was about Adele who she described herself as “the worst phlebotomist in the whole hospital.” She was a physical therapist until the Coronavirus gripped the country. With all her physical therapy sessions cancelled, she was not needed there. But what the hospital really needed was more people to do blood draws. I loved her story.
Act 2is about the discovery of 30 century-old postcards written in old Yiddish by a distant family member challenges David Kestenbaum’s ideas about the unimportance of blood ties.
Act 3 is about a Shakespeare theater production that involved a lot of blood that was a little too real for the audience and what befell everyone.
Act 5is about a broken heart… no, not a love sick broken heart… a heart that required open heart surgery.
Walk In The Woods
While I enjoyed these stories, I wasn’t bowled over by them as other stories I’ve heard, although the color red stuck in my mind. I finished what I was doing and got my pup ready to go for a trot. This is our pandemic routine. Pumper loves our trots, especially when we see other dogs! I am pretty sure that she thinks all dogs exist on Earth to play with her. She plays well with all dogs no matter their size or temperament, adapting herself to whoever she mets for an instant playdate.
So, when we caught sight of big dog ahead of us, it was Pumper’s mission to catch up with them. They were walking fast, but Pumper was pulling me faster. Eventually, we caught up and found out the big dog was a Great Pyrenees–-Poodle mix– a Pyrepoo! It was the first one we’d ever met, and it was only 7 months old but already twice as big as Pumpernickel (now 15 months). I was admiring all the similarities between the two dogs who got along splendidly together. The owner of the Pyrepoo just told me how the Great Pyrenees were guard dogs of a flock not herders. And I just told her my dog was a Pyrepitt (she’s actually many more dogs mixed in but the Great Pyreness and Pitt Bull are the most dominate) when a Pitt Bull came upon us.
The guy walking the Pitt looked a bit anxious, but neither I nor the owner of the Pyrepoo took alarm. As he passed us with the Pitt on a super short leash, the Pyrepoo pup went over to say hello. This is common doggie custom to greet all new incoming dogs with a sniff. But no sooner had the pup approached the Pitt to sniff when he yelped in pain. The Pitt had bite him and would not let go. Both owners tried desperately to pry the Pitt’s jaws open. Pumper and I stood stunned and helpless watching what was happening before us.
Finally, the Pitt released its grip and Pyrepoo pulled back to a safe distance. I was relieved to see his nose was not the part bitten, but blood dripped from his lower lip. There was also blood in the Pitt’s mouth, and blood on the hands of both owners. It turned out the man was helping his sister with her dog and apparently didn’t know the Pitt’s temperament. The whole thing was terrible. I helped flag down a Kleenex for the owner of the Pyrepoo, then they were off to the vet get stitches. I felt so bad because had we not stopped them to say hello, they would have missed the Pitt Bull.
The synchronicity of the moment was duly noted. I have learned to pay attention to such moments when I recognize them. There is usually more going on that needs to be understood, but I had no idea what. Ruminating on blood was something I did not do, really at all… perhaps due to cultural programming.
Brooklyn Center — Then & Now
The next day, another terrible synchronicity occurred when Daunte Wright was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center, MN during a ‘routine’ traffic stop. The shooting occurred hardly more than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And it happened right in the middle of the trial of Chauvin, which had just completed its second week of heart wrenching testimony about George Floyd’s final moments, his life, and lost potential and presence in the lives of all who loved him. It was painful to absorb. And then, another young black man lost his life at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
These deaths hit close to home because I grew up in North Minneapolis. I know where George Floyd died and where Daunte Wright was shot. I could walk to Brooklyn Center from where I lived. I often went to the old Brookdale Mall in Brooklyn Center because that’s where you went with your friends in high school (well, maybe that’s where the nerdy kids went). It was a place we could go to feel young and free.
I remember meeting my girlfriends at Rocky Rococos, then walking around the Brookdale Mall. We mostly just walked and talked, dreaming about our futures. None of us had much money to spend, but every once in a while, one of us would buy something special there. I remember hunting for prom dresses there with my friends and buying one even though I didn’t have a date and did not go to my high school prom. But I wanted a picture in a prom dress…lol. Looking back at these moments, they were times we were pretending to be all grown up, and the Brookdale Mall was the perfect backdrop to step into our fantasy lives.
Back in its day, the Brookdale Mall was part of cutting edge suburban social architecture being one of 5 malls opening around downtown Minneapolis to provide the perfect place to go for suburban housewives and families who needed ordinary household supplies, furniture, school supplies and clothes–whatever was needed for a suburban household. They were knows as the Dales and included Brookdale (Brooklyn Center), Rosedale (Roseville), Ridgedale (Minnetonka), and Southdale (Edina). Brookdale first opened in 1962 and grew in stages. A lovely blog called Abandoned Retail recounts the rise and fall of the Dales surrounding Minneapolis, specifically the Brookdale Mall.
When I was growing up, I never considered the privilege my white skin afforded me as I walked around places like the Brookdale Mall or drove to it myself after getting my driver’s license. I never thought about how the dreams I entertained or how the gallivants with my friends at the mall were carefully packaged in specific ways designed to make us believe we each had a chance to become Cinderella and to find our Prince Charming.
It would take decades before I realized how fatal the childhood fairytale fantasies I reveled in were. How they obscured brutal realities embedded throughout American society, inherited from its long history of slavery and institutionalized racism. Places like the old Brookdale Mall sold the white suburban fantasy to white Americans, but it was an artificial, super sugary coating trying to cover up the cruel realities faced by black and brown people every single day.
I have never feared for my life being pulled over for a traffic violation. I never felt watched by workers at stores who worried I might steal something. I know now my friends and I got get out of jail free cards simply for being white. This was not so for my friends and classmates who were brown and black who were losing their lives for making the very same mistakes I had made.
Policing & Justice in the United States of America
Description of this episode: Last summer, millions across the country took to the streets to protest police violence. Now, against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, criticism of the criminal justice system in America is once again under scrutiny. Recent shootings of Black men by police officers in the suburbs, including in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have attracted new attention to the changing demographics of the suburbs and the tactics police use there.
We recommend this thread from researcher Will Stancil, who is one of our guests for this conversation:
And conditions are often different for people in wealthy, white suburbs. From a piece called “The Case For Defunding Police Is In Our Affluent White Suburbs” in Mel Magazine:
Homicides, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes happendisproportionately in poor minority communities. Crime rates have been falling across the country for the last 30 years — it’s statistically the safest era to be an American. But Black and brown people, especially those in inner-city communities, are victimized by crime that’s practically unseen in whiter, more affluent suburbs.
Those suburbs aren’t safe and clean and orderly because they’re white and wealthy. White, wealthy suburbs are safe because they benefit from two world-shifting factors: 1) the police harass less and solve more serious crimes; and 2) there’s significant funding for municipal and social services, whether that’s schools or health-care facilities or simply park space.
How are police and local officials responding to changing demographics in the suburbs? Have police been able to answer calls for justice from local residents?
We’re talking about how policing works in the suburbs.
Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Description: Black girls are suspended six to seven times more than white girls in schools across the U.S. Now, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is reintroducing a bill that aims to disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline.
Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Rep. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, about the bill to address the disproportionate punishment of girls of color in schools.
Description: Recently, The Takeaway convened five of those voices, across law enforcement, advocacy, and academia, and asked them to come together to talk about the way forward. What is the future of policing in America? In our ongoing coverage, we tackle what’s broken in today’s system and what it would take to fix it.
April 20, 2021 — Today Was A Monumental Day, But We Are Not Done
Wow — I did not expect this verdict today. What a relief. It is one step in the right direction towards justice, but there is still a long ways to go and a lot of work to do to transform as a people, a society, a nation that values the lives of all its people–black, white, Asian, indigenous, immigrant, religious, non-religious–whoever you are, you belong in a society that treats everyone with dignity and respect and justice.
We Are a Nation of Beautiful People and Each & Every One Is Precious, If We Could Just Learn to See
The United States of America is at another inflection point; a time of reckoning of cultural precepts obscured and hidden through false politeness and talk of freedom for all, but with harden attitudes and deep brutality and injustices baked into our systems, our stories, and our brains. To change deeply ingrained attitudes, actions, and behavior, they need to be made visible. Even when they are made visible, they need to be reckoned with honestly by each individual in which they exist.
Perhaps that is why my attention got drawn to blood and its brutalities just before another police officer killed another precious soul in my hometown. Just the word blood conjures up violent, brutal images. But it also heralds new life (though any mother will tell you labor is hard and painful work). To do the work necessary to transform collective reality requires lots of individuals doing the hard work of self-development. A good place to begin is how we are programmed by our culture. For a modern man or woman, this gets complicated fast because modern society frequently requires belonging to lots of groups with each possessing its own unique culture that exerts an influence an individual’s mind space. This is important because it is here in this invisible space of mind where our values, beliefs, and attitudes are formed. These then inform our actions in the world, which create our collective reality.
Shankar Vedantam explored recently how culture and the cultural narratives we carry around inside of us influences our individual attitudes and actions in a podcast called Made of Honor. He introduces this episode saying, “Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse.” His guest speaker, Ryan Brown, begins with a story from his childhood where he finds himself along with his boyhood friends flying down a dark country road with no headlights on, no seatbelts, no helmets. The car was driven by a friend but appeal to him to go slower only goaded him to go faster. It was a moment Ryan believed he and his friends would die. It was also a moment that led Ryan to become a psychologist at Rice University in Texas.
Ryan Brown now understands why his fried refused to slow down nor apologize later for his reckless behavior. His friend was following a cultural script based on honor culture. “Honor cultures are societies that put the defensive reputation [of the group] at the center of social life and make that defense one of the highest priorities people have.” It is a culture that encourage excessive risk-taking behavior to show how brave and tough a person is, especially males in the culture. Doing so is a way to build and solidify one’s reputation in the society. In an Honor Culture, if your honor is threatened, you never back down, especially as a man, then you can only double-down and never show an ounce of weakness.
Ryan tells how his ancestry traces back to Southern Scotland that is steeped in the values and beliefs of Honor Culture. Residue of Honor Culture have been brought over from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and many other immigrant groups that had these beliefs. These attitudes and values took root and grew strong in the Southern colonies, even when the United States had not been born yet. And they continued to flourish when the Southern colonies transformed into the Southern states, and then they pushed West.
Ryan says (12:39): “And so if you think about westerns, if you think about Western movies or Western history, there are always rough and tumble guys with names that sounded kind of Scottish, a McTavish McDonald, McDougal, Graham, et cetera. And that’s not an accident. So even today, even though most people in the us in the South, I don’t think of themselves as byproducts of Scottish history. You can still see this cultural residue in some fairly powerful patterns of, of social life, that social scientists, many others, including myself, have documented over the last 20 years.”
Over the past 20 years, Ryan and his colleagues have documented a strong connection between Honor Culture and Military Valor. This is a positive trait of this culture but there is a dark side too because honor cultures can get trapped in endless cycle of violence where retribution for dishonor is followed by retribution upon retribution of escalating violence. Honor cultures are found all over the world in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and also found in black and brown communities in the U.S. Honor culture is particularly prevalent in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. The names of towns and businesses even reflect honor culture such as a little country town in Texas called Cut and Shoot. But, naming places is only one small example of how honor culture shapes the lives of millions of people.
Honor cultures tend to take the stance: “That’s not my people. That’s not my family. That’s not my community.” Such a mental stances discourages individuals to reflect on situations that arise that end in conflict, even violence, and these cultures do not cultivate empathy, kindness, and compassion. These qualities are considered signs of weakness. If you lose your honor in an Honor Culture, you lose your value, your standing, your reputation and never get it back. Honor cultures tend to have a veneer of extreme politeness, but violence bubbles below and can break out at the slightest perceived slight. For instance, a simple insult in an honor culture can rapidly escalate into a violence.
Gender roles tend to be highly rigid as well in Honor Cultures with Ryan saying (29:59), “If you’re a real man in an honor culture, then that means you’ve built a reputation as someone who’s strong, tough, brave, loyal, and utterly intolerant of disrespect. If you’re a woman in an honor culture and your considered a good woman and honorable woman, that means that you’ve lived up to the social standards that say you should be loyal to family, especially loyal to your husband and sexually pure.“
In a complicated country such as the US, honor cultures have effects on how politics play out (47:55) “And what to spend a few minutes talking about the role of honor culture in politics. You’re a list of States where there is a strong honor. Culture include South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and States that don’t include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota. It’s hard not to see a division there between, you know, a prototypical red States and prototypical blue States, Republican States and democratic States, right?“
AprilSometimesBrings More Than Showers
Honor Culture explains a lot, but it’s not the only influence shaping individual attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. There are many factors shaping who we are as individuals. Circumstances such as social status, economic status, rural or urban dweller, religious community all exert tremendous influences on individuals. To be a modern human living in a highly technological society requires belonging to many systems and groups that all have unique cultures all exerting expectations and limitations on individuals. In short, modern humans live in very complicated worlds, made so by us. Although living in groups has proven to be an undeniably successful strategy to survive, there is a price and there is a dark side. The eruption of violence seems to be a deadly cost of living in huge groups.
As I did research for this blog, I came across an article about how April 14 to April 20 is historically a Bad Week for violent or disastrous events to occur. I will not speculate why bad things seem to cycle in patterns or occur in series, but here is a partial accounting of this week through time:
April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City on
April 19, 1993: a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX ended in a devastating fire that killed more than 50 people, including children
April 20, 1999: the Columbine shooting occurred that left 12 students dead and 21 injured happened
April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech shooting killed 32 people and wounded 17 others
April 14, 1912: the Titanic sank
April 18, 1906: the most deadly earthquake in U.S, history hit San Francisco.
Regardless of whether violence is because of honor culture, racism, or the growing disease gripping the United States of America of mass shooting, it leaves a on survivors too. One group, impacted more than most, is hardly ever heard. Millions of children around the country are affected by gun violence every year. Whether it’s sitting through safety and violence prevention programs in school, losing a friend or loved one, or being a victim themselves, this brand of cruelty has an effect on the young.
1A talks with author John Woodrow Cox who shares powerful stories from young victims–and looks at what their experience can tell us about preventing further harm, both physical and mental.
Here & Now talked to racial trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem in this interview. He brought up something terribly important in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death almost one year ago. Menakem says what Chauvin did was not only traumatic but meant to inflict terror in the community as well. He says (which has been said by many others as well in the past 24 hours) that “— guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is not justice, but rather accountability. It took uninterrupted, uncut video evidence to prove what people of color have been saying for decades about the police.” He said, “This particular video, compared to other taped incidents of police violence against Black Americans, represented white body supremacy so clearly that people could not dismiss it anymore. [But] still, there are significant swaths of people who don’t believe there are innocent Black and Brown people who are profiled and unfairly targeted by police.“
I know such people. I know what Menakem says is true about white people in particular.
Menakem further states that “there’s pain in not being believed, and also trauma from racialized gaslighting — a form of psychological manipulation that white bodies in the U.S. have done to Black, Brown and Indigenous people for centuries.“
I’ve experienced gaslighting, and I know people who still suffer from the pain and trauma of being gaslighted by people they depended on who gaslighted them instead of took care of and nurtured them. Mencken is right to point this out. It is tremendously painful and highly effective at tearing apart the fabric that sustains us all. A gaslighter is a person who makes other people feel like they are the one who is going crazy. They are insidious, crafty, deceitful people.
“If a white body says something and then a body of culture says something else, what ends up happening is that the white body is always given the benefit of the doubt,” Menakem says. “So throughout the trial and verdict, people of color held onto hope for accountability on one hand while on the other hand, knew “white bodies will never admit that this system is feral.”
It is feral. The United States of America has a completely lopsided, feral system. And because of all the sugar coated, fluffy fantasies white kids get fed in their youth combined with being instilled with you’ve got to be somebody, white people are left with very little inner resources to see and deal with the truth. It is much easier to pretend not to see how brutal, how feral, how sick our culture really is.
Healing is possible, Menakem assures. He ends saying we need to start by turning towards each other and seeing other other rather than away from each other. This is powerful advice.
Lots of Human Beings, Lots of Disasters
Human beings seem particularly prone to creating circumstances that end in disaster:
You get the idea. Now, how do we get out of cycles of violence and disaster (mostly human made)? How do we recover and get to a place where something better can take root and grow?
Something else flows alongside the red blood cells in our bodies. It is not something that is visible, but it can be felt. This invisible substance (or perhaps force) is essential to sustain our inner spaces and to maintain a healthy state of mind. Each and every human being is born with this invisible force flowing through them just like blood flows through them. Because we are human, we are aware of this force and this awareness allows us to channel it and to alter instinctual responses and urges before acting on them. Human beings can suppress instinctual responses. They can amplify them, and they can transform them into something else entirely. Carl Jung called this ability consciousness, or perhaps it is spirit blood.
It is through our choices and how we alter instinctual responses before acting on them that our collective reality is created. Eastern traditions, religions, and philosophies call this power Karma, which is simply the recognition that every action creates a reaction, a consequence.
This all ascends quickly into the realm of spiritual and metaphysic concerns, which is a realm most often regulated to religions to grapple with the nebulous inner spaces where thoughts, attitudes, and bias materialize into action.
I was raised Lutheran, but during the time of my father’s death, I found my childhood religion negated the realities of powerful synchronicities that occurred and inner experiences my father and I experienced during the 10 days he lived beyond the moment he should have died. I have written about his previously, so will not do so again here.
Instead, I would like to highlight something that my friend Ali Raza Saleem posted, which caught my eye during the time my attention was focused on blood. My friend is a neuroscientist and scholar of Jung and posted the following:
Qalb (Faculty of Heart) and Lataif e Sitta
The faculty of heart (Qalb) is the faculty of the Spirit, not the biological pumping heart when we refer Qalb in terms of spirituality. The nerves associated with heart are primarily concerned with pumping of the heart, conveying signals to muscles, as well as sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to control the pace of heart beat.
Faculty of Heart, spiritually speaking, isn’t tied strictly to ’emotional aspects’. Brain has designated centers for emotional perception and the affects are mediated through signals to the body including changing contraction and pace of the heart, bodily sensations, fight or flight mechanisms etc.
Faculty of Heart is the faculty of immaterial Rooh (Spirit) that along with other faculties (lataif) ‘feels’ Love, Suffering of the other Soul, Compassion, Benevolence, Bliss, Tranquility (itmenaan), Gratitude, Spiritual longing and Joy of Union with Beloved, Divine Beauty and Majesty etc, and blocked by Greed, Anger, Arrogance, Bukhl (stinginess), Hasad (Jealousy), Bughaz (spitefulness), malice, malevolence etc stemming from unpurified Lower Nafs (Ego). The emotions resulting from gratification or failure of gratification of lower Nafs (Ego) are also more of bodily/’brainy’ in nature. But in a loose sense, speaking poetically, heart can be said as preceptor of emotions in general as their ‘Affect’ is ‘felt’ at the heart.
The immaterial lataif including Qalb (heart) have specific locations on the body (metaphysically superimposed on various organs like heart as in the case of Qalb) as described in Lataif e Sitta, where the virtues associated with them are experienced spiritually.
He further sent me this graphic.
And he explained:
For a Sufi his body is in service (submission) to Divine Will helping him fullfil the tasks for nourishment of the Spirit/Soul.
The terms in this diagram maybe used in different meanings compared to the ones used in Psychology like the term Self here have meanings different to what we use in Psychology. This article further explains the model and the meaning of terms used in this diagram.
I know so little about Muslim teachings and wisdom, but I find everything Ali Raza Saleem shared extremely helpful in understanding the workings of the Invisible Self. These are the parts not visible to others unless we share them through words or actions. I have also been reading The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony and have found her writing also very illuminating about the Invisible Self. Beginning on page 35, she writes:
“People who can hear within are called psychic, but, in truth, we all have this ability; it is simply suppressed in most of us. Through inner listening we can also become aware of other people’s conscious thoughts. Our superior self listens and looks, but does not speak. What we receive from the inner world that we perceive and know as intuition comes from inside and apart from ourselves, just as what we see of the outer world is outside and apart from ourselves. What we hear within comes from the teacher, the same Sage who speaks through the I Ching. It knows the way and comes to help. We can only hear it when we maintain emptiness, innocence, and receptivity. When we jump to conclusions because of fear and impatience, we can’t hear the quiet suggestions of the Sage within.“
“When we say a thing ‘comes totally out of the blue,’ this is an intuitive ways of saying that we are helped by the Sage. We say ‘out of the blue,’ because our words have the clarity of the sky and come from nowhere. What we say is what needs to be said and is perfectly appropriate. Innocence and emptiness make it possible; we are noticeably free of emotional attachment and our words come in the vernacular of the moment; everyone understands and agrees. when this happens we are always a bit surprised. The fact is, we are not in possession of such moments, although we make them happen through being in a complementary relationship with the Creative Power. This we can do only through cultivating our superior man within.“
This makes me thinks how each of us is a livingwork of art constantly in progress and transformation. As living works of art, we are both artist and the art. We choose the colors, patterns, subject, and background–and by so doing, we live them, we feel them, we see them, we know them. The canvas is our mind. And we develop our art of being by listening and learning how to regain our innocence and inner emptiness that allows us to be open and receptive to every moment we met. This is how we can transform ourselves, and by doing so, transform the world.
— Myths of Fear, Marks of the Beast, and the End of the World
Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles
Part 5 in The Storytelling SpeciesSeries
Oh How We Love Scary Tales & Stories Skirting the Edge of Being Bad
We play with reality. We do this with our minds. The world is not a perfect place and a lot of bad things happen in it. When we don’t understand something, it is in our nature to make sense of it, and we do this most often by telling each other stories. Collective stories provide a critical glue that hold people together in a common understanding of reality. But that is not all collective stories do. Collective stories activate our inner worlds. They energize them and inspire action in the world. They are powerful and people who seek power know this and they know how to manipulate stories to benefit themselves or a small few.
Recently, the idea of alternative facts and reality has entered the mainstream Western lexicon with a vengeance. It’s been confounding to watch common, ordinary facts get twisted and ripped apart, then thrown in the air like confetti. Today, pretty much anyone can be a Magician of Reality; pretty much anyone can concoct elaborate myths and illusions of reality, and then peddle their piddle as truth. People do this for lots of reasons: to entertain, to distract from something bad they’ve done, and to manipulate and misguide others to make a lot of money.
Profit & the News (or Should I Say Altered News Meant to Tantalize, Titillate, and Terrorize)
People profit from misinformation. People like Alex Jones. It is so very tempting, in fact, it is irresistible to become a Master of Illusions. If you have not heard This American’s Life episode titled: Beware the Jabberwock, now it a good time to stop reading and listen to this episode.
There are two acts in this episode. The first is one is called: Down the Rabbit Hole where producer Miki Meeks picks up the story of Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook. In the years after Noah’s death, Lenny and his family were harassed by people who believed the shooting at Sandy Hook never happened – that it was all a conspiracy. Until one day, Lenny decided to fight back. (24 minutes)
The second one is called: Alex in Wonderland. It is narrative by Jon Ronson who travels to Alex Jones’ hometown to validate the Alex Jones myth. He finds many, many holes in Alex’s recollection of his own past.
This act’s description is: Alex Jones spread the idea that Sandy Hook was a hoax, on his radio show and website for years after the shooting. He’s probably the country’s most famous conspiracy theorist. He’s even had Donald Trump on his show. Reporter Jon Ronson travels to Jones’ hometown in Texas, to investigate the story Jones tells about himself, and how he became who he is. Jon Ronson and his producer Lina Misitzis originally created a version of this story for Audible. They also produced Jon’s latest series, a longform Original “The Last Days of August,” the never-before-told story of what caused the untimely death of 23-year-old porn star August Ames. It’s available exclusively on Audible.com. (27 minutes)
Fake News, Fake News — EverywhereYou Look — Get Your Fake News HitToday, Just Click Here
Much has been written about misinformation, but it was not until after the election results of 2016 that more people started paying attention to the real life effects that misinformation can have on ordinary, every day, real people. the AmericanPress Institute published a very good article: Factually: How misinformation makes money in 2019. Just a little teaser from this article:
“There has been much written about how fake news websites and other sources make money from spreading misinformation. During the 2016 election in the United States, it even became a cottage industry.
Now a new study quantifies just how much misinformers are profiting from online advertising. Spoiler: It’s a lot.“
Because There Is Billions and Billions of Dollars Out There
An article in GWToday reports on a virtual forum hosted by GW’s Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics that explored the harm being caused by online disinformation related to COVID-19 and social media regulation (or lack there of it). This article reports that Facebook netted $17.4 billion in advertising in its most recent quarter (back in 2020).
“Fear mongering, fraudulent groups are using social media to scam users with false rumors and fake claims about COVID-19,”House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “Foreign actors including Russia, but not exclusively there, are flooding platforms with conspiracy theories and lies to sow national dissent as America protests racial injustice. Even our own president is using social media to fan the flames of intolerance and hatred during this precarious time in the nation’s history.”
So,Let’s Hurry Up and Make a PageThat Misleads, Misguides, and Makes Lot’s of Money TOO!
Insider reported in October of 2020 about 40 Facebook pages identified as ‘super-spreaders’ of election misinformation that were reaching million of users.
The Bigger the Lie — The More We Will Make!!
Sadly, we know how this misinformation cumulated into the Big Lie touted by Trump and his diehard cronies in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. In a letter to the editor of Lehigh Valley Live, one person summarizes the danger this type of information presents to us all.
The Big Lie headlines once again. Joe Biden and political commentators reference “the big election lie” to describe President Trump’s narrative regarding the election results. With repetition, the big lie takes on a life of its own. It becomes the truth to many and empowers its believers to think and act according to itself. Trump, his big lie and the believers of the big lie are cited by non-believing white people as the destroyers of democracy and the bearers of death.
Trump’s lie may be the modern Big Lie, but what is the biggest lie, the lie that has endured years, decades and centuries … the lie that shelters itself in our hearts … the lie that is passed from generation to generation?
If we white people of good will refuse to see ourselves reflected in the white supremacy that rose up on Jan. 6, then we choose to reject the truth that will free all of us. The truth will enable us to destroy our protective wall of white privilege and co-create with all our fellow human beings a society that respects the worth and dignity of each of us.
The biggest lie is the lie we choose to live. Choose truth.
In May 2020, Open Secrets explored how dark money networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites. One of the most super successful Master of Illusions to rise in recent history is Donald Trump (who Alex Jones counts as a close friend).
“Tax records analyzed by OpenSecrets reveal ACRONYM’s most recent financial information and shine light on its cozy relationship with affiliated entities.”
“ACRONYM raised $9.4 million from secret donors during its second year of operation through April 2019, more than seven times the prior year according to its tax returns. Three anonymous donors giving more than $1 million each made up more than half of that, with the top donor giving more than $2 million.”
Terrorizing people and misleading them is BIG Business!
And still, here we are reporting on the costs and consequences of misinformation in the world. For instance, this article about the very real dangers of COVID-19 misinformation was published on Jan 6, 2021. Ironically, the day the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by people who had ingested, believed, and acted on another myth filled with misinformation fed to them by the Big Lie.
Anti-Semitism, Evil Powers, the End of the World— Oh, and Don’t Forget How Eve Messed Everything Up
Michael Blume, a political scientist who serves as anti-Semitism commissioner for the government of Baden-Württemberg against anti-Semitism since 2018, has explored theories of religion and the effects in the brain (“neurotheologies”). In a recent interview, he says:
“Supporters of conspiracy myths believe that evil powers rule the world, says Michael Blume, who has just written a book on the subject. It is not a question of education: “You can have an engineering degree, a PhD or a professor’s degree and use all your intelligence to sink all the deeper into conspiracy myths. With regard to the QAnon conspiracy myth, Blume predicts that the movement will disintegrate after the US presidential election. The remaining followers will, however, become more radical, he fears. ‘It cannot be ruled out that further violence will result from this conspiracy movement.‘”
In another interview, he was asked about Querdenken 711 and explains:
So you’re not surprised about some of the statements being spread in these demonstrations? [i.e., Germany’s anti-lockdown movement “Querdenken 711”]
“Yes, it’s always been like that. Whenever a pandemic has occurred in history, we have had two possibilities. Either we face the fear and uncertainty and inform ourselves, while living with the fact that we don’t have any ready answers. For example, we do not know when the vaccine will be available. And the other option is simply to block it out: I don’t accept the fear, I look for a group to blame. All I have to do is shout at them and go out into the street. And then everything is supposed to be fine.“
“Many of these conspiracy myths already existed in the 15th to 19th centuries. Sometimes it even gets a bit boring, because they are always the same building pieces. People demonstrate together, whether they are left, center, or right, but what connects them is their image of the common enemy. And that is the important thing: People are so fixated in their fears that it is not even creative. They never come up with a Brazilian world conspiracy or a world conspiracy of Quakers or the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s always, always, always Jews and women behind it.“
In another clip from another interview, Jitarth Jadeja explains how he found QAnon in 2017, and then spent two years entrenched in this virtual cult. His biggest regret he tells is sharing the conspiracy theory with his father.
And Good Morning America explored how QAnon is tearing families apart.
But Let’s Return to thePlandemic Myth & Dig A Little Deeper
The myth that COVID-19 was planned follows the classic pathways of myth creations humans have been using since we began telling stories about ourselves and what has happened to us as we journeyed through time and space. It uses pseudo sources of trusted sources of information about the coronavirus. One such pseudo experts is the radiologist that Trump appointed to the U.S. Corona Task Force. Trump appointed this idiot because he preaches about the benefits of herd immunity–something Trump was preaching in his vain effort to get re-elected. To Trump, the Coronavirus was an unwelcome reality check that pulled the covers off his levees of lies and levers of deception he was using to hoodwink his supporters into believing he was looking out for them. But, he wasn’t. He doesn’t look out for anyone but himself. Every moment of his life is a transaction he must win. So, Anthony Fauci’s science-based knowledge about what was happening to us was inconvenient to Trump’s failed narrative of how he would Make America Great again. Thus, enter the pseudo expert, a radiologist with no knowledge or understanding of infectious diseases spouting off the lies Trump wanted you to believe.
Or the doctor Trump retweeted promoting hydroxychloroquine as a legitimate treatment for Coronavirus despite overwhelming evidence this immunosuppressive drug normally used as an anti-parasitical treatment for malaria had significant risks of triggering a heart attack in Coronavirus patients. In this same video the Trump greatly amplified through his mindless retweet, this pseudo doctor blames America’s current health problems on demon sperm. I’m not exaggerating…I really, really wish I was, but Trump really retweeted this doctor.
Trevor Noah explains it much more plainly.
As you know, this sort of crazy thinking is not contained only to the United States. It is spreading globally like a goopy goo crisscrossing the glove through social media channels–being spread through anonymous document like the one I got hoodwinked into editing. It is absolutely a mind virus spreading and has many names; the most popular being “Plandemic“.
Let’s Make A Myth & Make It Stick (Like Really Sticky Goopy Goop)
One story line of the Plandemic (there are many out theredepending on who you want the enemy to be) goes something like this: There is a group of global elites who created the virus and unleashed it on the world to make more money (as if global elites don’t have anything better to do with their lives than commit mass murder, well…maybe some, but this narrative is hiding something lacking in the person drawn to it).
There is something incredibly glittery about pinning all the ills of the world on some super elites (and I agree they do share a bigger burden for perpetuating many of our current problems), but it’s too glittery, too black-and-white, too clean and neat… and reality is not clean and neat, it is messy and confusing, and confounding most of the time. But that is the appeal of myths, they make sense out of ignorance, mindlessness, folly, foolishness, idiocy, imbecility, incapacity, senselessness, and stupidity.
Now, Back to QAnon & the Shaman!!
Now, let’s dig deeper into another glittery conspiracy myth: Q (or better known as QAnon).
This article labels Angeli as Inter-dimensionally Stupid, but is he, really? Is he not rather tapping into something deep living inside all of us that is trying desperately to navigate its way through intensely troubling tremendously stressful, fully anxiety riddled, and sometimes quite terrifying times?
Everyone is looking for answers to really scary, complicated stuff that leaves even the best and brightest of us feeling incompetent and with no personal control of what is happening to us, to the ones we love, to the world. It is during times like this when myths are more powerful and important.
So Who Is Q?
No, Q is not the beloved, mischievous character from Star Trek. Although one might just consider this for a minute. I bet the Star Trek Q is exactly who the Russian Special Disinformation Agent known as Sergei was thinking of when he scribbled out a scrappy story for his Internet disinformation campaign he had been assigned to back in 2016.
Sergei just happened to hit gold dust when he scribbled down and spewed out his fictional character Q onto the social media channels he had been assigned to pollute. Oh how the angry Americans he was interacting with gobbled Q up in the lead up to the 2016 election. Sergei crafted his mysterious Q to have mysterious access to all the dirt on Hillary Clinton. Since then, Q has evolved into the great peculiar leader of QAnon, a conspiracy theory/myth alleging there is a battle between good and evil in which the Republican Mr. Trump is allied with the former.
Good Bubble | Bad Bubble
It should be. It is the classical story arch all great stories and myths follow. Returning to our good friend Mr. Trump, it is as if he found and is guarding the good bubble of reality for all of us to step into and be safe just like Glinda the Good Witch of the South who arrived just in the nick of time to help Dorothy survive the land of Oz.
But if you have a good bubble and a good witch, there must be a bad bubble and a bad witch, right?
AndThis Guy Named Q
The Wall Street Journalreported on this newest (and pretty strange story) about this guy named Q saying: “QAnon followers are awaiting two major events: the Storm and the Great Awakening. The Storm is the mass arrest of people in high-power positions who will face a long-awaited reckoning. The Great Awakening involves a single event in which everyone will attain the epiphany that QAnon theory was accurate the whole time. This realization will allow society to enter an age of utopia.”
So, Sergei still sits in his sod hut somewhere on the Siberian Tundra typing out tangy new details about Q while chomping on Spicy Cheetos and shooting down shots of vodka. Sergei is particularly proud about how QAnon has inspired enthusiastic new believers to carry out a despicable vandalizing attack on 3 galleries in Berlin. These vandals used some oily substance, which they threw on ancient artifacts such as Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures and 19th-century paintings held at the Pergamon Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Neues Museum sustained visible damage during the attack on 3 October, as reported by The Guardian. Reportedly, they did this because these museums were thought to be one of the centre of ‘global satanism’.
This is crazy stuff, right? But it is happening now in 2020 landing it right up there with the man who drove up from North Carolina, entered a beloved family pizza place called Comet Ping Pong, and shot off rounds from his rifle. Terrified families threw themselves and their children under tables while he babbled about freeing the fictional children enslaved in the basement of the pizza joint by Hillary Clinton and other Democrats elites. It is a very sad moment now known as Pizzagate.
Splitting— The Magic Ingredient of Conspiracy Myths — A Kind of Mind BubbleThat Tend to Pop Pretty Fast When It Hits the Rock of Reality (Mother Earth… the ground upon which all life must stand upon)
To spin his illusions Sergei counts on our human fallibilities that get heighten during times of highly charged social unrest such as current American politics or the pressures of globalism or the looming calamities Climate Change promises to rain down on us. Sergei knows when humans feel stressed and not in control of their stress, he can prey upon the looming hopeless and despair threatening to crush them. When people feel like this, it is easy to lure them back into an immature and destructive psychological defense mechanisms called splitting.
Splitting allows humans to make just about anyone or anything into an instant enemy. Sergei knows this and makes his mysterious Q just vague enough so people project whatever they want into his fantasy character. Once frighten desperate people have their leader, it is very simple to create an enemy out of just about anyone or anything in 4 easy steps: Step 1) Take ordinary reality and cut it into good and bad parts, Step 2) Walk inside the good bubble created by splitting reality into polar opposites, Step 3) Inhabit your good bubble and invite your friends, then zip up your bubble, Step 4) Everything remaining outside of your good bubble is the enemy, this is the bad bubble that must be popped.
Anyone can do this. In fact, we have all done this because it is a normal psychological defense mechanism all children pass through on their way to becoming adults. It becomes a maladaptive psychological defense mechanism when adults continue to do it long into their adult years. When it becomes the only thing they do to deal with the unpleasant aspects of reality it can be pathological. One of the best write ups I have read describing psychological defense mechanisms (i.e., they range from the most highly evolved and mature mechanisms to the most neurotic, immature, and pathological mechanisms) is this excellent blog simply titled: Defence Mechanisms.
Previous Post in Storytelling Species:Part 4: Collective Storytelling: The Stories We Tell Become the Myths We
Next Post in Storytelling Species: Part 6: Individual Storytelling — The Magic Ingredient
— 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?
“Breath Is Too Precious for Hate” — Rev. William Barber
In a time of Great Grief, one must find a thread of Great Belief to hang onto. Not just any thread, but one grown and spun from the center of your heart… the core of who you are as a living being traveling through space and time with other living beings all struggling to survive the setbacks and challenges inherent in being a space-time being. It must be a thread spun with compassion, understanding, truth (at least a willingness to sink into and see truth as it is revealed through time), kindness, patience, and love. This is an elusive thread to find because so many of our systems of being are based and reward the opposites of all these precious qualities of being human. But to survive Great Grief, this is the only way that will lead you and everyone you love to a better place in space and time.
But how do you do this? How does one find this rare and precious thread inside oneself to hang onto as the waves of lost, injustice, disease, death, isolation, exploitation, cruelty, ill treatment, and so many other things that happen to us as we try to survive through time…things that wash away at our very soul?
Just breathe… breath is powerful.
In a Scientific American article that I link to below (Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020), the Stanford neurobiologist Andrew Huberman discusses two things all of us can do to control our response to distress, trauma, pain, and suffering, even during a high-stress time such as this past year has been with an extremely divisive election, racial disparities spotlighted in brutal, traumatic ways in the killing of George Floyd (and so many more individuals unjustly) and unequal access to wealth and healthcare causing black and brown people to suffer the highest death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.
Breathe has never been more forefront and center than it has been this past year with the tragic events leading to chants across the country, indeed the world, of “I can’t breathe” combined with COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe as the novel coronavirus robs them of their ability to do so.
In the article mentioned, Andrew Huberman says, “Breathing represents a bridge between the conscious and unconscious control of the body.” Since I’ve been writing about consciousness and unconsciousness in my story Sapience, drawing much from Carl Jung’s work, I wondered what is the equivalent to breath for the psyche. Then, I remembered this song Breathe by Télépopmusik.
I brought you something close to me Left for something you see though you’re here You haunt my dreams There’s nothing to do but believe Just believe Just breathe
Another day, just believe Another day, just breathe Another day, just believe Another day, just breathe
Breath has long been a symbol for spirit–that invisible force powering all living beings. As human beings, we are aware of this spirit that is powering us and flowing throughout our life on Earth. Jung talks of the importance of this thing that is aware, he calls it Self or psyche. He explains that this small part of self that is aware must swim between that which is conscious inside oneself and that which is unconscious inside oneself to generate the energy necessary to maintain consciousness. This is what gives us the ability as human beings to choose actions different than what our instincts would otherwise dictate. It requires us to ascend up and down within the parts of ourselves that we know about because they exist within our sphere of consciousness and the parts of ourself that we do not know about because they exist within the sphere of our unconsciousness (the bigger sphere). Belief might be like a psychic vessel (a ship, a submarine, or maybe a fish) that we create inside ourselves (in our mind space) in order to make our epic journey through space and time.
However, belief is not omniscient (all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing) in and of itself. Belief is a part of the immortal body that exists somewhere in the realm of mind, but it is also very mortal and because of that imperfect. For belief to exist through time, just as the body exists through time, beliefs must be refreshed and refined with new knowledge (hopefully even wisdom) all the time, just like the lungs must be refreshed all the time with new air, fresh air so the corporeal body may live.
So how does one hold on during a time of Great Grief, Great Sadness, Great Stress, and Great Lost--like now? It is breath. It is belief. But one must take care to keep the immortal and mortal air breathed clean and refreshing for beliefs can lead individuals into very dark places as well as into illuminated places. It is up to you to choose which place you journey through space and time.
Following is a collection of stories percolating through me since I heard them that have inspired these thoughts. Or perhaps, I should say immortal breaths…and so, another day, just believe, another day, just breathe…
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: And finally today, it’s been less than two weeks since the Biden administration took office, and it has already been a whirlwind. The president has signed more than two dozen executive orders addressing everything from immigration to climate change, as well as one of the issues he says propelled him to run for the presidency for this third time, racial justice.
So we thought this would be a good time to check in with civil rights activist, the Reverend William Barber II. He was invited to offer the homily at the inaugural prayer service. The text came from the prophet Isaiah.
SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING of the Rev. WILLIAM BARBER II:
“And so the prophet gives the nation God’s clear guidance out of the jam it is in. Choose first to repent of the policy sin, and then repair the breach. The breach, according to the imagery of Isaiah, is when there is a gap in the nation between what is and how God wants things to be.”
MARTIN: It was both an affirming message but also a call to action, so we wanted to hear Reverend Barber’s take on what that should look like. To remind, he is the president of an organization called Repairers of the Breach, which is based in Goldsboro, N.C. He’s a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. And he is with us once again.
Reverend Barber, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.
BARBER: Thank you so much for having me on today.
MARTIN: What gave you the inspiration for the sermon?
BARBER: Well, I was asked to deliver it, and that was quite a humbling request. And then they asked me, did I know much about Isaiah 58? And, of course, that is one of the major passages of scripture recognized by Jews, Muslims and Christians especially. It is a scripture specifically speaking to the nation about how to repair itself after it has been through lying leadership, extreme leadership, mean-spirited leadership, oppressive leadership. And it really gives a step-by-step what has to be done.
MARTIN: Well, to — you know, to that point, I mean, the president in – President Biden in running for office and certainly at his inaugural message has been stressing a message of unity. And during your homily, you spoke of unity. I mean, you said the breach would be knowing the only way to ensure domestic tranquility is to establish justice, but pretending we can address the nation’s wounds with simplistic calls for unity. Can you expand on what you’re saying here?
BARBER: Well, surely. You know, one of the things I think more than just being a civil rights activist, I’m trying my best with others to be, you know, a moral leader, one who looks at things through the lens of moral analysis, moral articulation and moral activism. And you can’t have a simplistic view that all we need is “Kumbaya.” All we need to do is slap back — is pat each other on the back. No, no, no, no. There are real forces — and we have seen them — forces that we saw that would rather put a person on the Supreme Court than protect people from dying in caskets from COVID, forces that would rather give trillions of dollars — trillions — to corporations during COVID while billionaires make almost a trillion dollars and then fight to just give a few trillion to poor and low-wealth people and those who are hurting. These are real battles. And some people are not going to unite with justice. But if enough of us can unite with justice and love, we can move this country forward.
MARTIN: But I am interested in how you feel that happens when some have made it abundantly clear that they do not agree with this agenda. I mean, for example, I mean, your first, as I – you announced on Twitter that beginning tomorrow, the Poor People’s Campaign will be holding special Moral Mondays events. Your first event will center on increasing the minimum wage. Your group is calling for some very ambitious things like universal health care, limiting defense spending. I mean, the fact is that a significant number of people in this country don’t agree with that. So how does he reconcile both the desire that some people clearly have for a more sort of temperate, more moderate, more constructive tone and yet people like yourself who say, no, there are ambitious things that need to happen? How does he resolve that?
BARBER: Now, yes, 70 million people voted for Trump, but over 80 million people voted for Biden and Harris. They knew they were going to pass – they were going to fight for living wages, addressing systemic racism and to address health care. Biden won 55% of all poor and low-wealth people voting under – that made under $50,000 a year. In Georgia and other places, poor and low-wealth people voted for Biden and Harris at a rate 14% higher.
We’re talking about, how do we heal the soul of the South Side? And it’s only by healing the sickness in the body. And so what we’re talking about is a must – is a must. These things must happen, and when you have the power, even if you only have one vote – Republicans showed us something. They did it for the wrong reason, but they didn’t care if they had just one vote. They did what was wrong. So people who have one vote now must do what is right.
MARTIN: I can’t tell from listening to you whether you feel encouraged or you still feel frustrated.
BARBER: So I’m encouraged because the movement is encouraged. I’m encouraged because more people turned out to vote in the midst of COVID than ever turned out in the history of this country. I’m encouraged because 6 million more poor and low-wealth people turned out in this election than they did in 2016. I’m encouraged because this country has shown us that if you run on a progressive agenda, if you talk about health care, living wages and dealing with racism, you can win in California. You can win in Georgia. You can win in Pennsylvania. You can win all over this country if you give people a vision of progress for which they can vote.
I am discouraged on one thing, and it’s — but it’s going to come — that we still don’t hear enough about poverty. We hear Democrats talking about the middle class and workers. But if 43% of this country was poor and low-wealth before COVID, and 8 million more have been thrust into poverty since May of last year, and if only 39% of this country can afford a thousand-dollar emergency, we must use the word poverty. We must talk about poor and low-wage people. We must say their name and say their condition. And we must say we’re not going to lift from the middle up. We’re not going to trickle down. We’re going to lift from the bottom up.
MARTIN: So before we let you go, I want to acknowledge that, as you have acknowledged, that many people are still struggling because of the pandemic, because of the downturn. Obviously, some people – many people were struggling before that, but a lot of people are suffering right now. And this is something that you brought up in your homily. And I just wondered if you had some words of encouragement for people who are struggling.
BARBER: You know, as a pastor, I will tell you, in this season, sometimes I have not had words. I’ll just be honest. All we’ve had is presence, even if it was distant presence. All we’ve had is love. All we’ve had is sometimes just getting on a video and crying together when people couldn’t go visit their loved one. Sometimes that’s all we’ve had.
You know, one of the things some of us have done is ask the question real seriously, why are we still alive? I mean, in this moment when any of us could be gone in seven days, seven minutes – you know, we could contract COVID. We could be breathing fine one minute, and it could all shut down – why is it that we’re still alive? Or more importantly, what is it that we’re going to do with the breath we have?
And some of us have decided in the midst of the tears, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the pain, we decided that breath is too important to waste. We don’t have any breath to waste on being mean and hateful and unjust and hurting people. The only real use of our breath is to try to breathe some more love and truth and grace and justice into this world and in this society.
And so whether we live seven minutes, seven days, seven months, seven years or 70 years, that’s what we’re committing ourselves to do with every breath we take from now on because this moment has been a moment where we all have to face the potential of our own mortality in a very real way. We can end any moment, be alone on a breathing machine with nobody able to come and see us. And many people have died like that. And in their name and in their memory, even with our pain, we must use every breath we have to turn things around, to push our political system to do right from the bottom up, with every breath we have left until we have no more breath in us.
MARTIN: That was the Reverend William Barber II. He’s president of Repairers of the Breach. He’s co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Reverend Barber, thank you so much for joining us once again.
BARBER: Thank you so much. And blessings to you and your staff.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
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After hearing the Rev. William Barber speaking with Anderson Cooper earlier in the year of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then again in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, I was so inspired by his deep wisdom, knowledge, and words that I created a playlist: Repairers of the Breach. We are all responsible for the existence of this breach, which grows deeper and wider with every act of ignorance, malice, and hate that we conduct into the world through our thoughts, words, and actions.
But we are all also healers of this breach, and we can repair this breach when we act with knowledge that we have distilled from our experiences in the world and that we have gained by taking the time to educate ourselves about things, about great mysteries and unknowns in this complex and beautiful world, and when we pay attention to great masters/teachers who have lived throughout time who can help us remove the veils of illusions and delusions–sadly created by others who have chosen to trick and deceive people for their own self-betterment.
We can repair this great divide, the breach we have all forged inside ourself and between each other when we conduct ourself with love and compassion, when we take time to pay attention to other people, especially to people who are suffering, who are in need, who have been ignored and left behind, who have not received the blessings meant for all living being on Earth because these blessings have been diverted and hoarded by a few, especially in these modern times.
Each of us is a healer and repairer of this terrible breach that has broken so many families and friendships recently, but we must constantly refresh our beliefs.
I had heard Act 1 of This American Life before (Down the Rabbit Hole, which is the story of Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook. In the years after Noah’s death, Lenny and his family were harassed by people who believed the shooting at Sandy Hook never happened – that it was all a conspiracy. Until one day, Lenny decided to fight back).
This is a powerful, heart-breaking, and terribly important story to hear. So, if you have not heard it, you should start with Act 1.
Act 2 is new to me, and it blew me away. Reporter Jon Ronson travels to Texas to uncover the origin story of Alex Jones, infamous founder of InfoWars. Having just finished watching HBO’s Watchmen, I was into origin stories. This is one that needs to be heard because it encapsulates an Archetype of our time. One that is dominating the minds of millions and millions of people these days. One defined by Conspiracy Obsession—Satan Fixation—Bully Compulsion tendencies. It is so prevalent in America society today, percolating even more fiercely by the isolation imposed on every human being in the world due to COVID-19. Alex Jones is a man who had great sway and influence on our former President, Trump, who has a very similar mental world bound by the same Conspiracy Obsession—Satan Fixation—Bullying Compulsions as Jones—something we all saw fall off the page of Facebook and come to life in the storming of the Capitol of the United States of American on Jan. 6, 2021.
I can just feel how one’s breath must tighten and grow shallower and shallower as one depends deeper and deeper into such rabbit-holes of deception and obsession that leads to hate, grief, and pain all for the good of someone like Alex Jones or Donald Trump, not for the good of the ones going into the holes.
Which direction in life will you choose to go? The journey running away from grief and pain by going to fancy parties and coronations in fancy golden high heels? Or will you choose to climb the highest mountain to see the llama or the Lama? 😉
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The TedRadio Hour
Breathe— “Breathing is essential to life. And lately, the safety of the air we inhale, or the need to pause and take a deep breath, is on our minds a lot. This hour, TED speakers explore the power of breath.”
This episode is all about breath. I did not think too much about it after I heard it, but then I heard the words of Rev. William Barber and I saw the importance of these stories in a new light. Because of this, I am highlighting them here and providing links to them so you can listen to them as you have time and interest to do so if you decide to explore the links between breathing, believing, and life. [Note that the images accompanying each story do not necessarily match the TedRadio Hour images but rather link to similar ideas/stories but different sources.]
Description:In 2002, free diver Tanya Streeter completed a record-breaking dive of 525 feet—in one breath. She reflects on the obstacles she faced, and the experience of pushing her body and lungs to the limit.This is a riveting story!
About:Tanya Streeter is a world champion freediver who was inducted into the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame in March 2000. For more than two months, she held the world record — for both men and women — diving to 525 feet in the “no limits” category, which is still the women’s world record for No Limits Apnea.
She has been featured in the documentaries, Freediver, and A Plastic Ocean. She also hosted a show on BBC Two called Shark Therapy, in which she attempted to overcome her fear of sharks.
Streeter received degrees in Public Administration and French from the University of Brighton.
Description: Journalist Beth Gardiner and activist Yvette Arellano explain the long-term health effects of air pollution. Yvette lives in a Houston neighborhood near the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.
About: Beth Gardiner is an American journalist based in London. For ten years, she reported for the Associated Press in New York and London.
Now, her reporting primarily focuses on the environment. She has discussed her work on NPR’s All Things Considered, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and the BBC’s World at One.
Gardiner is the author of Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, an exploration into the long-term health effects of air pollution. Gardiner received grants to support her work on Choked from both the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Description: Dinosaurs ruled Earth for 180 million years, but to dominate they had to outcompete a slew of other animals. Paleontologist Emma Schachner thinks their lungs could have been the competitive advantage.
About:Emma Schachner is an anatomy professor at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She also specializes in the 3D digital modeling of anatomy from CT and MR images, as well as scientific illustration, which merges anatomy, art, and scientific communication.
Schachner’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of a broad range of animals including alligators, chameleons, parrots and ostriches. She uses these data to reconstruct the biology of extinct reptiles, particularly dinosaurs and the fossil ancestors of crocodilians.
She received her master’s degree in paleontology at the University of Bristol and her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Fifth Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Us In An Ever-Changing World?
Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on breath and impermanence.
About:Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.
Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.
He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.
Each day, we breathe about 22,000 times–and all that time we smell. Scent historian Caro Verbeek recreates scents of the past. She says, just like music and art, smell is a part of our heritage.
About:Caro Verbeek is an embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and International Flavours & Fragrances. She creates olfactory tours and interventions for museums.
Verbeek teaches the course ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague and is the curator in chief of the olfactory culture program ‘Odorama’ at Mediamatic Amsterdam. She is also an advisor for immaterial heritage projects at Mondriaan Fonds.
She received her M.A. in curatorial studies at VU Amsterdam University and her M.A. in art history at the University of Amsterdam.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Sophie Fustec, known artistically as La Chica, about her new album La Loba, in which she comes to terms with her brother’s recent death who died after jumping into a hot spring to save his dog. I was deeply touched by this interview and Sophie’s beautiful voice.
* * *
Then there is the tragic death of another beautiful Sophie–Sophie Xeon who was popularly known as just Sophie. She died at 34 after a terrible accident where she fell from a roof that she climbed to get a picture of a full moon. Ludovica Ludinatrice, Sophie’s representative, said: “True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us. The family thank everyone for their love and support and request privacy at this devastating time.”
Each breath we take is precious for every breath links us to every individual we ever come into contact with each and every day. Breathing\believing is how we weave the web of life (our shared reality). It is a timeless process done in our corporal bodies through breath and in our immortal bodies through belief. We all need to breath…to believe to survive and thrive.
What will you do with your breath today?
It is so precious…you are so precious…and life is so fragile and short.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung, The Philosophical Tree
This is a simple and very common story. It is a story about a mistake that lead to a misunderstanding that descended into fatuity. Stuff like this happens all the time between people. Most of the time, it leaves both parties feeling moronic, doltish, and foolish.
The exception is when one person holds more power or authority than another person. Then such common occurrences get channeled down a most menacing passage way. One socially designed to keep the power holder’s dignity and respectability in place while decimating the other’s social standing or means of making a living.
You think I am exaggerating?
Injustices use the energy created inside the mind to effect action in the world. Systems of consciousness evolved to divert the psychological energies generated by simple mistakes and common misunderstanding unto a few. The few are the handful of people who have amassed resources and become rich and powerful in the world of human beings. These rich and powerful folks then engineer the social systems to reroute the blessings meant for all people living within a system (e.g., a family, a tribe, a city, a state, a nation, a civilization) unto themselves. This has been happening for centuries, entrenching power unto a few people existing on the top of the social hierarchy.
Still doubt me? Watch Poldark to see how the system worked in the late 18th century and early 19th century in England–a country that emerged as a supersized powerhouse in molding how modern day Western Civilization works today. Sure Poldark is a work of fiction, but all good fiction draws upon archetypal characters acting in the real world.
But even a foolish, stupid thing can be turned into a source of knowledge, even wisdom, if one seeks deeper understanding and is not committed to upholding the existing system of being, most often referred to as civilization. It is for this reason I choose to tell and share this story.
To me it is a navigation map. Something an individual in a conflict can refer to as a reference point for guidance in navigating the depths of misunderstanding, especially when all the Cards of Knowledge are not being lain down on the Table of Resolution. Knowing how to navigate the strong currents created by deception, power plays, and one upmanship maneuvers can help both parties avoid dropping down into the even darker realms of being human. Down there in these darkest realms of the human psyche, mistakes can quickly transform into ugly beasts of folly that are quite capable of inflicting terrible suffering on other people, and even of swallowing a fragile ego whole, just like a snake swallows an egg.
You think I am exaggerating again, don’t you?
If you are like me and taught the edges of your thought are the edges of yourself and believing this, you have probably constructed a pretty nice ego (or perhaps it should be called an egg-o!..lol..) to comport yourself through life, just like I did. Most of the time, your ego construct probably serves you just fine, just like mine did. But if you are like me and believed this to be all that you are–like that pretty egg just sitting there doing nothing to invite the devastation and destruction fate so often serves–then you encountered autonomous unconscious content inside yourself but outside of your egg-o, it was probably pretty traumatic, just like it was for me.
But wait, there is more: you realize such autonomous unconscious content exists inside everyone who you love, respect, answer to at work, depend on as friends, etc., ect. When you realize this, such an encounter with autonomous unconscious content can turn into something very devastating, just like it did for me.
I chronicle it in my girl with dragon story that tells about what happened to me as my autonomous unconscious content mixed with everyone’s else around me to create the perfect dragon storm of autonomous unconscious content acting in the world.
If you’re not into reading blogs (even super short ones), I turned this story into a video series. But, there are only 3 because during this time of my inner journey, I needed encouragement and attention. This first video got a lot of likes and comments when I shared it, but the next two seemed to reach no one. So, I stopped making them. I didn’t have any more energy inside to do it even though they made me happy. I was relying on the time and attention others were giving me then. It is not a good way to live; however, the Facebook universe is built this way. It incites us to live on the outer most edges of ourselves, which are the most public, the social roles we play in our groups and society. Facebook promises fame and fortune for those who learn how to play this game well. But, there is a dark side to this game we are all playing on this platform.
The brutality is built right into the platform (as well as other social media platforms) and it can spill over into reality in terrible, evil ways. Consider the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. This genocide used Facebook to incite terrible, brutal violence in the real world. The New York Times conducted an in-depth investigation of this genocide and reported what they found in this article: A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military
“Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group, the people said. The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it is so broadly used that many of the country’s 18 million internet users confuse the Silicon Valley social media platform with the internet. Human rights groups blame the anti-Rohingya propaganda for inciting murders, rapes and the largest forced human migration in recent history.”
“They posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes as they flooded Facebook with their hatred. One said Islam was a global threat to Buddhism. Another shared a false story about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man.”
There is also a brutality conducted daily on ordinary users of this platform. It is quite invisible but follows the currents of time and attention generated by everyone using the platform that day or point in time. We, the users, create the currents of time and attention swirling around on all the social media platforms. But since they are a collective creation, no one individual controls them. That’s what makes it fun–learning how to galvanize, shock, and stir up attention, and then send it this way or that. These are little streams of course, but if you’re good… they can grow… and if you’re really good, the currents of time and attention can transform you into a top dog or a shark inside a fish tank. Then, all the other little fishes in the tank will follow you anywhere you go.
But, if you fall outside the collectively generated currents, you will feel the coldness of being ignored, the silent treatment (even by your friends and family in your network) inflicted upon you for crossing some unseen social boundary, usually a taboo. In short, Facebook is slowly but surely turning its users into Attention Addicts. Any addiction of any nature usurps an individual’s inner psychological energy that is needed to think, to feel good about self and others, and to act with intergirty in the world. I believe this is a new type of addiction we are growing in ourselves, all around the world. It is to our own detriment for it is another channel being carved into our collective consciousness diverting the blessings meant for everyone unto a few. Not much is written about this evolving new addiction, much more needs to be written. However, I found this article, which is very interesting: Why I Was Addicted to Attention, Lies, and Drama byVironika Tugaleva.
This is a tangent, and I will not take any more time to talk about now other than to say these places I speak about that are concealed deep inside the human psyche have been mostly forgotten by our civilized, modern world. They have been suppressed, denied, and rejected for centuries. The most common refrain used to justify this refusal to be a whole human being is ‘that’s not civilized.’
But these uncivilized parts of self exist inside every person’s psyche. They are the empty-headed, slow-witted, dopey, short-sighted, ill-considered, inept, cocked-eyed parts of self. They are the parts of ourselves that have been stashed and locked, and double locked away. No one wants to admit these parts exist: the asinine, loopy, unthinking parts of ourselves that can make us feel or look repulsive to others–perhaps even dangerous.
To admit such detestable vulnerabilities publicly can result in being ostracized. This is most of all true of modern day Western Civilization. And social shunning can have severe and damaging effects on the social roles that we are forced to assume and inhabit in order to live a modern, Westernize life that allows us to feed, cloth, and shelter ourselves and our loved ones.
The silent treatment is very effective, and it is a very old practice. It can be traced far back into the dawning of Western Civilization. My friend Barry Kort pointed this out recently, and I have researched shunning several years ago for the story I am writing.
Ignoring someone for some socially perceived fault was encoded into law by Hammurabi who was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty of the Amorite tribe, reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC. The Hammurabi code of laws, a collection of 282 rules, established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice. The laws varied according to social class and gender, and it took a brutal approach to justice. And these codes did not die out with the conquering of Babylon. There is a fascinating discussion of this code in this interesting book: Shared Reality: What Makes Us Strong and Tears Us Apart. Public shunning was one of the punishments devised by Hammurabi and disguised as coming from God. Today, we know the silent treatment is a form of psychological abuse.
An article in Psychology Today states: “The silent treatment is a strategy frequently used by people who appear to possess great self-control and claim to be more rational than emotional. At the same time, it is related not only to an expression of passive violence but also to a concealed strategy of psychological abuse. That is to say, it can profoundly damage the person on the receiving end.”
“The worst sin to our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity”
I postulate there is another way to navigate mistakes and misunderstandings. A way that evolves us as a species and helps us individually grow more whole. It is not an easy way, but it is a way that sheds light on these unseemly parts of ourselves that allows us to see them and bring them to the fire of one’s flame of consciousness. I propose that it is exactly these parts of ourselves that desperately need rescuing now. To not do so will condemn us to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors who have given us this current brutal system of consciousness. I put forward it is percisely the primitive, most primordial parts that live inside every human being’s psyche who needs the gentle hand of understanding and tenderness of love for no other reason that for being.
I write about all this in my story titled Sapience: The Moment is Now. It is a story that required me to descend to great depths inside myself. It was so dark down there, I got lost. But the descent allowed me to resurrect some of the deepest, most forgotten parts of myself. And strangely, it is these parts that have helped me survive a terrible year–a year of sudden reversals and suffering around the world. Nothing more needs to be said except 2020.
All things, good and bad, hold power to awaken and illuminate more of who we are as tiny flecks of illuminated consciousness. Four years earlier, I was searching for venues to share a documentary I made about the first Women’s March. It was a super historical event. One that emerged organically like a super sentient being dressed in pink. This being, feminine of course, was a counter force rising in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. The election that landed him in the White House.
I interviewed 39 people that day, then used my new skills in iMovie to assemble a homemade documentary. It’s not that good. It’s too long and amateur. Some would say it’s exceedingly boring—except for the interviewees. Their voices are powerful.
After making this long video, I wanted to share it. And so, I ventured into the Netherworld of social media. It is a place until this moment in time that I instinctively avoided as a vile, loveless Pit of Perdition. And, I was not wrong about this.
I’ll get back to this later.
In the wake of Trump’s election, lots of new Facebook groups were forming around the world. There were Women’s March groups, Indivisible groups, and groups dedicated to the idiocracy of Donald Trump’s America. I joined many of these groups across America and around the world. I also joined Climate Change and Environmental groups because these issues run through the storyline of the narrative I’ve been chasing since before 2009 and writing daily since 2012. A story that was bursting into reality with the election of Donald Trump. That’s why I went down and interviewed people. It was so uncanny–what I had written and what was happening–I had to talk to other people. Indeed, I can sum up my story in three words; it is one about Climate Change and Consciousness.
At this time of rapid uptake of joining Facebook groups, I came across a group called the Ecology of System Thinkers (EoST). It was a bit outside my wheelhouse. However, I reasoned I had a degree in Human Ecology with a concentration in the sciences. Plus the group promoted itself as an intersection of diehard Systems Thinkers and everyone else. So, it seemed to me that I fit the parameters they had defined.
At this time, I noticed the time and attention one admin gave to members, especially to members experiencing conflict and arguing (boy—were there arguments back then!). I was impressed by this and came to understand he was one of the founders of the group. I found him inspiring. We became Facebook friends.
About a year later, I recall he took time off from his deep involvement in the group citing it took too much of his time, and he needed to put more of it into his family and other things going on in his life. I thought this was an admirable action too. The new admin replacing him was highly at first involved too. And we were already Facebook friends from another group. We had several in-depth, probing conversations. Then, the other guy came back and a few more admins were added. I noticed the first admin however was no longer as highly involved as before, except for a rare post here and there. In fact, he rarely commented any more on posts.
I remember being named as one of the members in this group who got high engagement from other members, but who was not participating or liking other members posts. He was trying to get more engagement from all the members. He was right. There is nothing more boring than a group where no one likes or comments on anyone’s posts. I liked and commented on other members posts for a time. But no one noticed. So, my engagement naturally declined, falling back to my pervious occasional posts. When I shared something I had done, I tried to make sure I connected its content with the interests of group with a comment of how it was relevant.
After my father died, this admin and others added as admins in this group or would be soon added to the admin team of this group, appeared super supportive of my sad situation. But it was short-lived support. All of them soon moved on in their own veins of being and interests in Facebook endeavors. In fact, none of the admins (5 of whom were my Facebook friends) ever liked a post I shared in EoST or commented on a post I shared in this group.
One day this year, I noticed the group no longer appeared as one I belonged to. I thought this odd but paid no mind to it until one day I searched for the group and could not find it, I became more curious about what had happened.
By now, it had been several weeks after I noticed the group had disappeared. I decided to ask my Facebook friend who was one of the head admin of this group what had happened. After a day of inquiring with the other admins, he simply told me one of his admins (he didn’t know who) was cleaning up spam and removed me on that basis. Apparently, this admin did this without consulting with any of the other admins assuming that I was a fake account that was spamming the group. My friend, the admin, expressed no shock, no sadness, no remorse about what had happened. Rather, his message to me was more like a lecture: It was overly zealous admin who failed to be as zealous in checking who or what was spam. He also told me matter-of-factly none of the other admins were at all regretful of this zealous admin’s actions. To me, this demonstrated an unconscious complacency by the whole admin team in support of questionable, overly harsh actions.
I had a bad feeling. I could not say exactly what or why I was feeling this, but I felt I had to act immediately. So I did. I blocked all 10 admins from my personal account. Then, I answered 3 unanswered messages in messenger. I told them I was deactivating my Facebook account and very briefly why. Then, I deactivated it and was gone. I didn’t think anyone would even notice my absence.
TheAfterMathof What Happened
But it turns out I left a wake.
It turns out I had an ally after all, Barry Kort.
I had recently featured him in my last blog titled AfterMath — The Magical Calculus of Consciousness. In this blog, I tell the story of how a casual conversation in another Facebook group sparked insight in me that aligned with content I was wrestling with in my story.
Unbeknownst to me, Barry was championing my case. He had taken it up with the admins of EoST. From what I’ve gleam from bits and pieces I learned about later, Barry was assessing and analyzing what had happened and why. He was spelling it out eloquently and illuminating deeper currents of thinking that were informing the actions occurring inside the group.
He did not have all the information because much of it remained hidden; however, his analysis is excellent and offers opportunities for insight and growth. But of course, this kind of growth is hard. Because of this, it is often rejected, especially by collectives, because it is not pretty, it is not nice. It is the stuff about ourselves we have all had to reject and hide away because we would be viewed as monsters by others for revealing these parts of ourselves.
This is a trap. It is a trap built into our modern systems. It was built to divert the blessings meant for everyone within a system or a group unto a few. It happened long ago. Most of us now no longer remember how it use to be. We are taught to believe this is normal.
It is not.
It is inherently cruel.
Left unchecked and unchanged, our modern systems of consciousness are growing more and more lopsided. They are turning in on themselves and will soon devour themselves. Just like Beth Harmon, the star in the Netflix Original story about a young orphan girl who is a chess prodigy, we (the humans of Earth) are inflicting the consequences of our individual and collective unconsciousness on ourselves and on each other through thoughtless, careless, cruel actions.
Barry has given me permission to share some of his analysis here:
Bébé, in her E-Mail to me, expressly decried the absence of an empathic human response. That created a dilemma for me, because Π was unable to provide the original context, so I had no useful information on what happened to cause Bébé to feel betrayed and wounded. Π could similarly see no reason for Bébé to be angry at him. But after I shared with him a bit more information, Π did see why her anger was directed at him. In other words, the failure to share relevant information blocks the possibility of empathy. If having and expressing empathy is the ultimate goal, then concealing information is anathema to that goal. — Barry Kort — December 17 at 6:13 PM
Barry has hit on something extremely important here in that: concealing information is anathema to the goal of expressing empathy…this something that is actually very important to the world of Systems Thinkers. In the past 4 years that I’ve belonged in this group, no one has ever talked about the importance of empathy and understanding. I learned more about Systems Thinking in this one paragraph written by Barry than I gleaned over 4 years of being a member of this this group. The power of empathy in constructing Bridges of Understanding allows for repairs to the deep divisions engineered into modern living–systems designed to keep us separated and isolated in our individual thinking and group silos.
As near as I can tell, this one admin departed from the model that Π and the other admins would have employed. As I understand it, this lone rogue admin unilaterally determined that it was correct to summarily boot Bebe out of the EoST and does not repent of that belief. It’s unclear to me how this lack of consensus among the Admins can be resolved. It may be too late for Bébé, but it means that this phenomenon is likely to recur, perhaps with another would-be contributor in the future. What has occurred is what Gregory Bateson would have called “Schismogenesis” meaning a fracturing and a fragmenting of Systems Thinking into two or more conflicting factions, each of which would employ disparate practices. As near as I can tell, this is why Bebe has lost faith in the integrity of the Systems Thinking culture. At least one faction would retain the practices of the anachronistic and deprecated model of the Police Culture. This disparity has roots that goes all the way back to the disparity between Theology and the secular Rule of Law. I had long hoped that the contributions of the more enlightened systems science would have at long last resolved that hoary and lamentable rift. — Barry Kort — December 17 at 11:37 PM
What more can I say, Barry sees a phenomenon at work and operating below the threshold of conscious awareness of this group. He has chronicled it in a most palatable way. Refusal to look at his analysis or to consider it in the light of understanding can only mean the undercurrents of concealment and denial are running deep and strong.
That’s what Π said, too. But it also reveals a phenomenon that troubles me far beyond this kind of commonplace mistake. Intention is one element in a Theory of Mind. Clearly the rogue admin misjudged Bébé, with respect to her intention. It’s clear from copious evidence that her posted content originated from a thread in GCC that included Sam, Doug, and myself (I am leaving Sam and Doug as they have been allies in this situation too). But another element of a Theory of Mind is emotional state. I was astonished at how erratic Π was in characterizing my emotional state. And Π’s inexplicable misconceptions in that regard helped me appreciate why Bebe reacted so strongly about the lack of empathy she encountered in EoST. I’m quite used to it, as almost no one ever gets it right when they try to assess my emotional state. Long ago, I learned that I have to expressly say that I’m chagrinned or disappointed or vexed and perplexed by some observable phenomenon on the social networks. But even having done so, Π still asserted an inexplicably incorrect character model, as if I were some chimera of his imagination. How the devil could he have gotten it so wrong? I reckon Columbo, Poirot, or Miss Marple would have a field day with this one. — Barry Kort — December 18 at 3:24 AM
Barry is absolutely correct, this is a case for the all the Columbo(s), the Poirot(s), and the Marple(s) of the underworld of man’s psyche. I’ve been writing about this (and by the way sharing it in EoST to the sound of silence) for quite some time. I dubbed this work the work of Consciousness Warriors. I suspect my work is too artistry and suspicious for the Systems Thinkers of EoST. Indeed, Barry’s thinking seems to be received this way as well, which is a lost for the group.
«Clearly the mistaken action by the admin touched a deeper nerve, no?» Precisely so, Doug. As I understand it, Bébé posted something in EoST, whereupon some undisclosed Admin summarily deleted it and unceremoniously blocked Bébé, erroneously believing it was spam. Π said that’s all he knew; he didn’t even know which of 11 Admins it was. But according to Π, whoever it was did not believe it was an error to have deleted Bebe’s post and to have summarily blocked her. As to what Bébé posted, my surmise is that it was something related to this contemporaneous blog post, which contains content Bébé had just gleaned from a discussion thread in GCC.
–Barry Kort — December 19 at 9:57 AM
cc: several people ~I wonder if Einstein would have been unceremoniously ejected from the same Systems Thinking communities that Doug and I got booted out of. If so, would he have soothed himself by playing the violin? — Barry Kort — December 18 at 7:06 PM
Doug and Barry are indeed right, a deeper nerve was hit and exposed. It is right for Barry to point out this type of thinking/reaction sequence and how an individual who did not fit in such as Einstein would have been treated if the systems operating now and are ubiquitous in modern society had operated then. Would we know about black holes, the theory of general relativity, and the photoelectric effect?
«I try to remember the devil of second order cybernetics. Observe the observer. When I do, I am of course observing myself observing someone observing.» That’s the opening lines of one of the paragraphs in Nora Bateson’s article in the O.P. And it occurs to me that the long comment thread initiated in response to BPT’s question, “What happened?” is an instance of “the devil of 2nd order cybernetics: reckoning the observer. What did the observer know and when did he know it? What did the observer report, and when did he report it? Did the observer know and report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Was anything left out or distorted? Was any of it paraphrased, glossed over, or taken out of context? To my mind, this cuts to the issue of Bearing Accurate Witness (and the consequences of redacting information that one would rather not have brought to light). I don’t know that we’ll resolve this issue here, but I submit that the political decision not to bear accurate witness is inconsistent with the fundamental tenets of cybernetic systems theory. As I understand it at this juncture, Bébé lost faith in the culture of systems thinking because it morphed from science to politics, and that departure introduced what she calls a “darkness” (and I call a corruption) of the fundamental tenets of systems science and systems thinking. — Barry Kort — December 19 at 6:15 PM
Barry is shining a brilliant light into a dark place. I have lost faith in the culture of Systems Thinking. The darkness of the human mind is indeed the source from which all corruption infiltrating the systems man has made creeps in. It takes conscious work to keep the darkness at bay. Most people don’t want to do this work because it is icky, painful at times, and humiliating at other times. So, we hide it in the dark places inside ourselves. But it does not go away. It remains quite actively there and very capable of acting autonomously and antithetically to our own self-interests. This is how the corruption works. I write extensively about it in my book.
As I see it, the community of systems thinkers have splintered into two discernible factions. The smaller faction, to which you and I subscribe, is that we employ the axiomatic principles and tools for thought of systems thinking to solve both systemic problems “out there” in the world at large, as well as systemic problems that arise within the corridors of our own discipline and practices. Moreover we do our work in public, so as to demonstrate that we are role models for our methodology even when we are addressing internal issues within our own community.
The larger faction (as apparently exemplified and revealed by at least three of the more prominent leaders in EoST) is that internal misadventures and departures from the governing axioms, principles and practices of systems thinking are not addressed in public (and perhaps not even addressed at all).
In yesterday’s Barn Raising, it occurred to me that you and T. were especially articulate in characterizing this dichotomy that divides Systems Thinking into these two mutually incompatible factions — a dichotomy that only surfaces when the practice of systems thinking itself has veered off the rails with respect to keeping its own house in order.
If that analysis has any merit, then it’s our minority faction which is obliged to devise a way to proceed in a constrained manner that is true to the core principles without alienating ourselves from the larger faction. Per G.‘s methodology, the title of this drama would be, “Physician, heal thyself.”
Bébé uncovered a “darkness” in EoST that might be characterized as a shame-based cover-up that is then seen as a “corruption” of the professed principles and practices of systems thinking. At least that model explains her loss of faith in systems thinking as she experienced it first-hand in EoST. At least that model explains why she characterized them as a bunch of “fakes” (because they didn’t practice what they preached). In classical stories such as those found in the New Testament, the corresponding term of art would be “hypocrisy.”
There must be a “third way” to proceed that is both effective as a diagnostic process and acceptable to the likes of Π, Beta, and the otherwise unidentified “zealous admin” whose rogue actions precipitated the ensuing liminal social drama (and its 2nd-order offshoot on my timeline).
Sam, in the process of recusing himself, Beta (not real name) referred to a non-private chat in which he declared his intention to de-attend the conversation over the issue of doing it in public.
May I add your name to that non-private chat so you can provide your insight on why this process is going awry?
The Folly& the Fake
Barry has provided a powerful and in-depth analysis for those who have the strength to digest it. A lass, I doubt many do. In addition to these tidbits I gleaned from my deactivated account; Barry shared something further with me that floored me. It is the reason I felt I had to deactivate my account though at the time I could not tell you why I felt this.
Below is a small excerpt of a longer exchange. It is the most hurtful and it so full of misperceptions and misrepresentations; I do not even know where to start. I feel compelled to dissect it sentence by sentence from my point of view. The truth lies in-between and so too is our shared reality. Where you fall as a 3rd Party Reader depends on where you stand upon your own inner terrain of being. It has been this way with truth ever since man crossed the threshold into consciousness so long, long ago.
Π: “I already get a lot of email I would rather not have.“
My interpretation: “Dam it, Barry! Don’t you understand how busy and important I am! Why are you bothering me with this?”
Π: “Her anger, then, is pointless and achieves nothing, in terms of anything I can do, it’s too late for that. Rather it’s a phase she needs to go through personally to get to a period of acceptance.“
My perspective: Π is pretending he knows me so well that he can instantly infer why and what I am angry about. His foolish attempt to assign value to someone else’s anger is folly. It reveals a reckless irrationality that is swimming about inside his mind. Not realizing the monster he fears lives inside him, he attempts to deflect blame of the injustices I have complained about as self-inflicted. This is a gross oversimplified of reality. One that is bound to create blow back.
Π: “However …Over many years, I have suggested to her, indirectly, that writing her book was not in the end going to be the catharsis she seeks for the death of at least one parent.“
My perspective:Π demonstrates his vast knowledge and understanding of me by showing he doesn’t even know which parent died. In fact, he doesn’t even remember when or how the death occurred. He is knocking his brain to recall if I even have already lost both parents. So, to not look completely stupid, he’s covering his bases with the stony-hearted phrase: the catharsis she seeks for the death of at least one parent. Besides being muddled in his mind about how long my parent has been dead, he demonstrates his utter lack of listening skills. I’ve told him many times I’ve been writing this story long before I ever met him or joined the EoST. I have written down enough material for 12 books with 12 more in my head. This is not a catharsis process grieving for a dead parent—what an inconsiderate, thoughtless, self-centered jerk!
Π: “I suggested she was better engaged in writing for other people, but she did not want to pursue that. She has chosen her own path, in terms of adjusting to loss, especially ignoring counsel from others, and there are consequences for that in terms of teaching m recovery rates. Feeling sad about loss is one thing, taking out anger on others is actually counterproductive.“
My perspective: Here again Πdemonstrates utter ignorance of who I am, what I’ve done, even how old I am. He says, “I suggested she was better engaged in writing for other people…” …as if I were 22 or 23 years old. You know… I bet he does think that’s how old I am poor bloke. He’s about 30+ years off. I’ve written for lots of other people. I have raised more than $10 million dollars for individuals, non-profits, and corporations around the world from the things I have written for other people. I’ve been part of huge proposal teams that have written winning proposals for huge government contracts totaling another $10 million dollars. I’ve written media and new releases and planned/implemented special events, planned-giving, and other types of fundraising things raising another $1 to 2 million for other people.
Writing for other people provides as much safety and security as being the Press Secretary on board the Titanic who is ordered to whip out a flashy News Briefabout how fabulous, sea-worthy, and unsinkable the ship is while it is sinking into the watery, cold depths of the North Atlantic. I made a video about this recently. Not that Π would have seen it as clearly I am not a person worth his time or attention.
So forgive me if I’m done writing stories for other people! These comments drip with his shallow, flaccid, artificiality. He reveals himself here as a self-obsessed, self-conceited bloke of magnificent proportions. Boy was my admiration misplaced in him.
Π: “Namely, I feel she has not properly got over the death of her parent, and also seems to blame others without reason for their ignorance – stupidity even – when she thinks they should know better. But I’m afraid we are all human beings. We all make mistakes. There’s nothing personal involved. No one knows everything, as pointed out at considerable cost by Socrates, a deep Systems Thinker himself.“
My perspective:HereΠ demonstrates once again how well he knows me. Again, he can’t even name which parent died–mother…father? He leaves the door open that both parents may very well be dead…because he really doesn’t know. Not only that, he asserts himself as an expert on grief. Then callously and cruelly blames me for my own suffering and pain.
Side Note: I wrote about this too…being blamed by those who really don’t know me at all for my misfortune on 10/31/18. At this point in time, my personnel tragedy was about 3 months old having occurred on 8/4/18. On Facebook, it was old news now. Looking back, this is when most of my Facebook friends vanished! Vamoose–all the individuals who were paying me so much attention before my father died…disappeared. And all the individuals who were not paying me much attention before dad died, joined the bandwagon of condolence wishing because–WOW–I was getting a lot of attention on Facebook then, and it would be a missed opportunity not to be seen by others on Facebook (you know… the murky, mutual friends that Facebook has engineered for us). Who hasn’t got Facebook suggestions: Hey, ‘so and so‘ is a friend of ‘so and so‘… someone you just became friends with on the platform and so you become friends with everyone else’s friends and pretty soon, you don’t really know who your friends are any more because everyone’s friend have become so inbred and artificial. Now, I understand why and what has been going on at a deeper, seedy level.
But, back to the conflict… that’s what you really want to read, right? (wink):
Indeed, there are plenty of times I have brought misfortunate on myself, but this is not one of them. I along with millions of other people just like me get far more misfortune than we deserve. It is inflicted on us by the Systems of Thinking that have been designed this way. They are cruel systems dreamed up by unconscious Systems Thinkers. Our modern Western systems have been engineered to divert the blessings meant for everyone existing inside the system unto a few.
[See Postscript at the end of this blog about Charles Dickens Scrooge and how fair “the system” has been for so long of time to the masses–-the ordinary men and women just trying to survive another day in it.] And you dare to call yourself an enlighten Systems Thinker… shame on you Π.
Even though this statement drips with cruelty and contempt, now, we are finally getting somewhere!!! This is what all the bells and whistles Π’s been throwing up into the air are all about. They are simply distractions because he’s afraid he will look stupid and cold-hearted (reptilian). He begs for his humanity meanwhile denying me mine. Then, in the next sentence, he has the gall to elevate himself to the level of Socrates—the father of Systems Thinker – ‘Oh my – we must be impressed with him now, mustn’t we?!’
Π:“I have deliberately not sought to take control of EOST, although I could have done so, BECAUSE I’m a system thinking guy, who sees those control patterns repeated again and again over history, with largely unsuccessful results, and much pain along the way. I will cite Hitler and the Jews here.”
My perspective: This part of Π’s soliloquy is between him and Barry. But really man, come on… citing Hitler and the Jews just because Barry is asking you for accountability of the group you founded. Pretty high and mighty… and very sad.
Π:“I have tried to work collaboratively with other Admins because I believe 💯% in working that way, and I’m unwilling to change that, underpinned by ST reasons.“
My perspective: This part of Π’s speech continues to be between him and Barry. He’s a System Thinking guy… just so you don’t forget that aspect of who he is.
Π: “Bébé can return but chooses not to. Again, it’s not my choice, but a self-inflicted wound on her part. If she wants to return I will 💯% support that, because I know that it was a mistake on the part of Admins that we have discussed and can rectify.“
My perspective: Thank you Π but no thank you!! For 4 years, I’ve contributed thoughtful content related to the “Systems Thinking ” from a non-systems thinker’s perspective (something you told Barry that was part of your aspirations for starting the group in the first place). During this entire time, neither you nor your admin team have given so much as a blue thumbs up… much less commented on a single post I’ve made in this group.Rather, I’ve been ignored, and now possibly, I see this is no accident,
Rather, in the past 6 months, I have engaged with your members more so than you or most of your admins who rarely post or comment on anything (except one who posts but rarely comments on members posts). During this time, I have encountered some of the most misogynistic, potty-mouth men than in any other group I have belonged (and that is a long list).
Self-inflicted wound?! I don’t think so. It is more like you’ve been a poison swirling around in my pools of friendships on Facebook. Silently, but decisively, your hidden attitudes and beliefs about me have been undermining me and belittling me to others. You think your disparaging attitudes and false beliefs of me go unseen just because you don’t say them like you’ve said to Barry… but you are wrong… these things permeate and infect the mutual Pools of Consciousness we have shared…like the group of 11.8K members amassed and growing into a gelatinous pool of goo because big groups tend to pull the collective consciousness down to the lowest levels of being unless hard work (like Barry is doing here) is attempted.
Π: “That’s the real point that she and you should be focusing on.“
My perspective:More distraction – “Oh look… look over there… that’s where the fire is…” Aren’t we all sick if these types of shenanigans after 4 years of Trump?”
Π: “For Bébé to blame humanity for being human and making mistakes is to expect folk to be superman. I’m sorry but that’s not a reasonable or Systems Thinking approach to take.“
My perspective: No, I am blaming you. I simply expected that you wouldn’t be so shallow, fake, and artificial. Once again, Π reveals himself to be self-conceit and superior to others. [See It Feeds on Fear and Sadness… scroll to the bottom where you will find information about Superiority and Inferiority Complexes]
Π: “Consider her anger shared, BTW!“
My perspective: Good, you are finally beginning the process of waking up.But given what I’ve seen, you’ll find a way to throw cold water on it.
Π: “But please note, again from a Systems Thinking perspective, I think anger that blames others is a pointless and net negative activity, a view clearly endorsed by the Dalai Lama, another Systems Thinker, and this anger is currently a self-inflicted and perpetuating wound.“
My perspective: Ah…the Dalai Lama! Yes, it would be nice to insert a little wisdom into such abundant false conjectures and accusations of a person that you clearly do not know. If he used even a little bit of wisdom, Π might even be able to locate the compassion inside of him, locked away in a place forgotten. He is so fixated on self-inflicted wounds… it makes me wonder if it is not himself that he is referring to. I am simply a convenient target to project it onto for a time. He’ll need another one soon.
Π: “If you choose to share this with her, please give her the whole context, not a juicy extract of your choosing, where I think sometimes your own past suggests that you miss some of the fine points involved.“
My perspective: Yep, got it all—loud and clear! Now I see you for what you really are: a self-absorbed, conceited man who needs to put others down in order to feel big and powerful and like a Superman or like Socrates or the Dalai Lama. Rather you are petty and cruel. It is really rather sad realization.
Why Calculating Consciousness is a Useful Activity
This is the accounting, the AfterMath, of a simple, reckless mistake, something that occurs frequently on a platform such as Facebook. Actually, something that is accelerating and growing within all social media platforms that are acting like incubators for unconscious autonomous content that exists inside every human being.
What Barry revealed in his calculus of what went wrong rises beyond a simple, reckless mistake, but a refusal to grow consciously. He uncovered an aggressive unconscious projection that had been conducted upon me, and even onto him for his efforts to understand. Had Barry not undertaken this work, I would not have known the underlying inner narrative that was acting like a toxin between me and Π and that was having a corroding effect on everyone with whom we were mutual Facebook friends. Inner narratives are powerful. Even if never shared or spoken to someone else, they influence an individual’s choices and action in the world and this is how reality is made.
Without Barry’s intervention, analysis, and willingness to share what he learned with me, I would have remained in the dark with my feelings of worthlessness and that something nefarious was afoot, but unseeable. I sensed there were foul undercurrents working against me. Now, I know. Barry has shown me my feelings are valid and can be trusted.
When someone is not treating you as as a friend should treat a friend, consider there may be a hidden inner narrative at work that is acting more like a devilish poison designed to wear you down and dissolve you for the benefit or entertainment of another.
These things happen in real life as well as in the fake lives we live in social media. I call them fake lives because on social media platforms we are really performing–constantly curating our content and pretending to be our most ideal selves (never mentioning or acknowledging our other half because that would be less than ideal to mention). Even more nefarious, some people pretend to be someone or something they are not in order to sell or swindle things from other human beings who are simply seen as resources to be used then thrown away.
So trust your feelings. If someone who has befriended you is not treating you as a real friend, a true friend, trust yourself and take action to protect yourself.
Thank you Barry!
The Numinous Power of Stories in the Human Psyche
Stories and narratives, especially those running inside our heads, have long played an oversize role in shaping our shared reality. All stories emerge from our inner spaces of mind. I call them mindscapes. We all have these sacred internal spaces that we build over time and reshape as we tell ourselves what has happened to us on our journey through time and space. These inner stories are powerful.
In this episode from This American Life, the power of how stories can shape reality is beautifully told in this Christmas mishap of storytelling that was a little bit too real.
How Narratives Shape Human Reality
Ever since humans gained consciousness, they have told stories about their experiences in space and time. We tell stories because we can, and they imbue life and energy into everything we do and believe and influence how we act in the world. This American Life tells wonderful stories about being human. I am selecting this one here as a prologue to the story of the Misadventure and Folly of Facebook to illustrate how power the narratives we hold in our head are in shaping our reality.
Lights, Camera, Christmas! — This holiday season, we bring you a show filled with stories of people going to great lengths to throw a special Christmas for their families. In particular, I want to highlight the story of the Mutchler’s who embellished the Christmas story of Santa and his reindeer and his elves in ways that grew to gigantic proportions within the minds of their 3 children.
Humans: The Storytelling Species
We are a storytelling species. And, human beings can conceal these internal stories that shape our motivations and actions in the world. In the real world, where people encounter each other in the flesh and blood, bodies and faces reveal hints of underlying motivations, conscious or unconscious, that are propelling action in the world.
Over millions and millions of years, living beings evolved complex ways of perceiving and decoding essential clues contained in bodies and faces. Clues that if deciphered fast enough could hint to possible life-threatening or predatory intentions.
In the human world, our basic animal instinct to survive has been raised us above the ground of basic survival by becoming conscious. Consciousness also gives us our ability to think, and this has allowed humans to outcompete every other living being on Earth. It has also allowed us to change reality to suit our needs.
But there is a price for this power. The price of consciousness is to grow it or to incur a debt that must be paid by costly misadventures that arise from unconscious behavior and actions in the world. Some will be good, but other misadventures will result in trial, torment, and tribulation. They will be ordeals of misfortune, suffering, distress, trouble, worry, and woe.
No human is perfect, of this there is no doubt, but some humans conduct themselves with greater compassion, gentleness, and humanity that conduct peace, warmth, and brotherly love into the world. Meanwhile, other human beings conduct themselves with heartless indifference in the world, a consequence of unconsciousness that burdens the bearer over time by warping our marvelous abilities of thought bending them into monstrous variants of the survival instinct rapacious greed and vulturine avaricious.
What Does Scrooge Have to Do with Anything?
The classic story of Scrooge and the manifestation of Ignorance and Want as the children hiding inside the robes of Christmas Present. The Ghost tells Scrooge the children are the responsibility of all mankind.
On Quora, Gwendolyn Smith, a former teacher who has taught adolescents for 27 Years, answers this question: What is ignorance and want in ‘A Christmas Carol’?
Charles Dickens was a strong believer in social justice. He also understood that ignorance and want had the potential to doom our society if left unchecked. His use of the term want is different from our use today. To us, want means desire; to Dickens, it meant abject poverty, a complete lack of the barest necessities of life. Remember what the men who were collecting for the poor said — that want was felt even more keenly during this time of year — and Scrooge’s response: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” His solution was to throw the poor and starving into prison and the jobless into workhouses. In other words, “It’s not my problem.”
The Spirit emphasizes that, as bad as want is, ignorance is worse. Why? Because as long as people remain ignorant — lacking in knowledge, information, and understanding — they will continue to lack the resources to gain jobs and work their way out of want. Instead, the problems will just compound, until society is destroyed by them. Want is self-perpetuating. Those of us who have the resources to do so must help those who languish in want and ignorance if we are ever to do away with them.
Dickens believed so strongly in the dangers of ignorance and want that he allegorized them as children, possibly to show that we as a society must take a hand in caring for the poor and the ignorant and help them learn the tools and skills to help themselves — the way we help our children. If we refuse, we, like Scrooge, are doomed.
Ignorance and Want from Pinterest (no source cited)
Just as ignorance and want are the terrible consequences of people who have been subjected to injustice in the real world because of the unjust systems we have created and imposed on ourselves, but mostly we have forgotten this small detail. They also have devastating consequences inside the minds of men and women. They are born and sustained by beliefs and inner narratives that operate much like algorithms or sheep dogs that shape one’s mind into an ignorant, stupid, one-eyed ogre. The story of Scrooge is very much about this kind of ignorance and want… indeed, it is the external expression of ignorance and want in the world suffered by the poor and disenfranchised people of the world that individual’s like Scrooge could help alleviate in the world exactly because of his wealth and the opportunities this afforded him.
It is because of the unlikely appearance of the apparition of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s very miserly business partner that affords Scrooge to conduct an inner accounting of his beliefs and internal systems of consciousness that have governed his equally penny-pinching actions in the world. When we remain ignorant of the many different aspects of ourselves that exist inside our psyche, we tend to become very lopsided human beings that despite our best intentions to do good in the world usually end up doing a lot of bad things in the world, indeed, wicked things. This is because everything existing within the spectrum of consciousness is an energy and just because an individual refuses to admit certain aspects of who they are does not make them disappear. In fact, these lost, forgotten, unseen parts of self tend to gain energy and grow within the psyche, thereby gaining an outsized influence on an individual’s choices and actions. Even more dangerous, these splintered, unacknowledged aspects of one’s own psyche in a desperate effort to be seen by the Self so that it can be integrated into the wholeness of who one is as a conscious being, it will be projected onto “the other person” who becomes the villain or the cause of an undesired situation. This happens suddenly and naturally when an individual encounters a circumstance that triggers unconscious content into action. It is when we fail to recognize these aspects of ourselves and integrated them into the wholeness of who we are when we are most capable of conducting the greatest evil in the world.
The Real Story of Scrooge is Individuation
Scrooge is the story of individuation.
My friend Fabian Navin finds and shares absolutely wonderful concepts distilled and illuminated by Carl Jung and other individuals who took the process of individuation seriously. Ultimately, every man and every woman choose: to remain in the darkness of our own unconsciousness into which we all are born, or to release the light inside of us (trapped in matter) and reveal the divine, limitless being who walks between heaven and hell and survives.
Fabian Navin:December 26 at 8:30 PM
“To many people it seems inconceivable that there could be in their psyche autonomous contents and an activity which is not “done” or “willed” by them. It is one of the most important achievements of the individuation process to experience this non-ego, to make it conscious to a large extent and to accept it as a helpful, constant companion. To live only within the limited confines of the ego is senseless and painful. But to participate knowingly in the boundless creative life of the psyche and in the archetypal images of the non-ego is full of meaning because whatever we do or omit to do is then resolved in something greater than the ego.
Here a bridge may be thrown across to the metaphysical realm, and here Jung’s belief in God reveals itself. He asks: “The decisive question for man is: Are you related to something infinite or not? That is the criterion of his life . . . Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self-forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In this consciousness we experience ourselves concurrently as limited and eternal, as both the one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we also possess the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite.”
Knowing participation in the “infinite” follows, in the psychological realm, from the awareness of the inner God-image, of the Self. Intimations of heaven and hell have been man’s since the earliest times, for these are the two poles—the light and the dark—between which his soul swings. A swing towards one side is always followed by an equal swing towards the other. Peace is found only at the centre, where man can be wholly man, neither angel nor devil, but simply man, partaker of both worlds. The search for this centre, for this balance of the soul, is a lifelong undertaking. It is the basic task and the ultimate goal of psychotherapy.
For this centre is also the place where the Divine filters through into the soul and reveals itself in the God-images, in the Self. It represents the moment of quiescence when the image of God can be perceived in the polished mirror of the soul. The “balance” meant here has nothing to do with what we call “happiness” in the ordinary sense of the word, nor with that state of freedom from care, suffering, and effort which hovers before most people’s eyes as the goal of their heart’s desire. Rather, it means a state in which both worlds, the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the joyful and the sorrowful, are united in self-evident acceptance and reflect the true nature of man, his inborn duality.
In this sense the individuation process leads to the highest possible development and completeness of the psychic personality and is a preparation for the end of life. Whether one goes the “natural”, more, or less unconscious way of individuation or takes the consciously worked through way depends, presumably, on fate. But one thing is certain: unconsciousness or wanting to remain unconscious, to escape the call to development and avoid the venture of life, is sin. For though growing old is the inescapable lot of all creatures, growing old meaningfully is a task ordained for man alone. What meaning has our life? None but what we give it.
The consciously undertaken way of individuation can, as we have seen, be considered from several points of view. In conclusion, we will list some of the most important.
As a process of psychological development, it represents the step-by-step maturation of the human psyche to the point where all its potentialities are unfolded, and the conscious and unconscious realms are united by integrating its historical roots with present-day consciousness.
From the point of view of characterology, it throws the typological profile of the individual into ever clearer relief. It facilitates increasing control of the auxiliary functions and of the undeveloped, inferior function and attitude, resulting in a growing capacity for judgment and decision and an extension of the freedom of the will.
From the sociological point of view, it integrates the individual with the collective and adapts the ego to the demands of life.
In psychotherapy it brings about a redistribution of psychic energy, assists the dissolution of complexes, identifications, and fixations, as well as the withdrawal of projections. It furnishes a means of recognizing and enduring one’s own shadow qualities, of finding one’s own values, and thus of overcoming neurosis.
Finally, from the religious point of view, it creates a living relation between man and the suprapersonal and gives him his proper place in the order of the universe. Through the encounter with the contents of the unconscious realm of the psyche and their integration with consciousness it lays the foundations of an independent, personal philosophy of life which, depending on the individual, may also ally itself with a particular creed.
The individuation process, however, cannot be grasped in its deepest essence, for it is a part of the mystery of transformation that pervades all creation. It includes within it the secret of life, which is ceaselessly reborn in passing through an ever renewed “death”.
“If man is to live,” says Jung, “he must fight and sacrifice his longing for the past in order to rise to his own heights. And having reached the noonday heights, he must sacrifice his love for his own achievement, for he may not loiter. The sun, too, sacrifices its greatest strength in order to hasten onward to the fruits of autumn, which are the seeds of rebirth.” If this sacrifice is made willingly—a deed possible for man alone and demanded again and again on the way of individuation — transformation and rebirth ensue.
Most people, however, prefer to be born only once. They are afraid of the pains without which there can be no birth. They have no trust in the natural striving of the psyche towards its goal. And so there are all too many who halt on life’s way. They venture nothing, they would rather forgo the prize.
Often even those who go the conscious way of individuation have not understood that the greatest problems in life can never be finally solved. “The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly.” These words of Jung’s should console us for never having met a “fully individuated” person. For it is not the goal but the striving towards this goal that gives our life content and meaning.“
~Jolande Jacobi, The Way of Individuation, pp. 129-134
And here is another gem shared by Fabian Navin about individuation as experienced by the alchemists whom Jung studied and learned from greatly.
Fabian Navin:December 26 at 6:53 PM
“One of the most fascinating aspects of the esoteric tradition is that they view the human being as a sleeping God, there’s none of the sin stuff, we are not sinful creatures, we are divine creatures, but we have forgotten who we were, because the light has been trapped in matter, and so long as my spark of light is trapped in matter I’ll just keep reincarnating over and over again.
But if I can liberate that spark and then unite with it then, that would be the definition of enlightenment that the Anthropos symbolizes. So the Alchemists also believed that they were Redeemers ,they believed that they were Redeemers in many different ways, according to the Alchemists if the act of Christ’s redemption of the world was insufficient, it wasn’t complete, we have to complete it.
And again it views the alchemists as a very powerful spiritual being on par with the divinity in some ways. One of the ways they express this: they would use the book of Genesis, as in alchemical texts, and so they would work with light, try to create light in the way that God did, in order to create in their little world this new divine being. But the ones that were a little less philosophic and ambitious also believed that alchemists were Redeemers because they were transmuting lead into gold.
Now from their perspective, and I think this goes back to Aristotle, there was the idea that metals grew in the earth, that lead, if left in the earth for a million years would naturally become gold, it was their evolution. so lead is the sick gold, it’s a deformed gold, it’s an undeveloped gold. So the alchemist says: well I don’t want to wait a million years, I can do this in my laboratory in maybe five. They’re not just making gold so they have money, they’re trying to redeem lead, they’re trying to transmute it into its healthy form, and they had this idea with all of matter, that this earth could be a paradise if the impurities could be transmuted out and the lead of our own world could become a golden world.
They applied that to the human being, as Jung does, we start out lead, we’re unconscious, we’re chaotic, we’re impulsive and destructive and what-have-you, but we can transmute our psyches into gold, and if we do that, then we experience the Anthropos and then we experience ourselves as more than human, as more than lead. You know, as was said earlier: if you take the world that we live in at its concrete terms it’s a pretty hopeless situation, but if you take the world that we live in as something that could be transmuted and redeemed especially through the imagination, and through the finding of meaning, then it’s not so hopeless.” — Jeffrey Raff – Jung and the Alchemical Imagination
We Are Numinous Creatures Who Have Forgotten So Much of Who We ARE
Interlocuteur: “If we became aware of the ancestral lives in us, we might disintegrate. An ancestor might take possession of us and ride us to death.” ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 139
“[W]ithout relatedness individuation is hardly possible. Relatedness begins with conversation mostly. Therefore communication is indubitably important.” –Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 609-610
We think we shape ourselves and try to act authentically. But our identity is malleable, and the unconscious plays a big role in that. To adapt with integrity, to be true to yourself, would require a clear sense of who you are, really and it is still context dependent. We are not the authors of our own narrative. Psychological well-being is tied to a coherent sense of self identity but is not its only source.
Here is a Real Systems Thinking Man
And this man is not known for his Systems Thinking, but he has done more to improve the systems we live inside than any Systems Thinker I have yet encountered:
“I should like now to pull together into one statement the conditions of this general hypothesis, and the effects which are specified. If I can create a relationship characterized on my part: by a genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings; by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as a separate individual; by a sensitive ability to see his world and himself as he sees them; Then the other individual in the relationship: will experience and understand aspects of himself which previously he has repressed; will find himself becoming better integrated, more able to function effectively; will become more similar to the person he would like to be; will be more self-directing and self-confident; will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive; will be more understanding, more acceptant of others; will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably. I believe that this statement holds whether I am speaking of my relationship with a client, with a group of students or staff members, with my family or children. It seems to me that we have here a general hypothesis which offers exciting possibilities for the development of creative, adaptive, autonomous persons.”
~Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy
One, Two, Three — Go Forth, Be Conscious!
This is one of the videos I have been making during 2020 to survive it. I always end my video notes with the following questions:
What will you do with your Field of Consciousness today?
More importantly, what will your Unconsciousness doe with you today?