Please note Chrome works best for the Archetypal Animations in this post.
— By Wendell Berry
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be,
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
Fourth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the presence of still water.
Fifth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
Sixth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
ReflectionsOn Wendell Berry’s Poem to This Moment in Time
When the forces of man’s collective psyche gather into a maelstrom sending destructive vortexes this way and that into the world, it is hard not to feel as Wendell Berry begins his timeless poem:
...despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's live may be...
Putin blows his devil’s breath from high within his isolated, depressing Moscow tower. A devil’s wind that makes his warrior vortexes go this way and that. Everywhere they go, the leave behind trails of blood, of dead bodies and blown up buildings, trees, and earth. Up there in his tower of desolation, he bloats in his madness as he congratulates himself over and over again about how he is getting away with unleashing his Hell-scape fantasies, deathly desires, and foolish folly into the world.
If you are a person with normal capacity for human empathy and compassion, then it is impossible to turn away and ignore what is going on in Ukraine. And you must not turn away.
We all must witness this wicked madness straight on, just as the Ukrainians are meeting Putin’s little devils straight on. If we don’t want to become like Putin, we must feel this destruction deeply and furiously. And we must feel down deep into our bones all the other tragedies unfolding in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, in the heart of all major cities and super rick countries in this world.
If you do, this means you are still human.
Wendell Berry describes the monsters inside us all. And he also tells us how to quell them and to sink into the peace that passes all understanding.
I wonder when was the last time Putin went down to where the wood drakes gather? When did he last lay down on his back, belly exposed to the light, the air, the sun, the stars and breathe in the beauty of this world? When did he last see a heron eat a snake or ponder the peace of still water? When did he last look up into the night sky and wonder about how implausible any of us are here at all?
When did Putin cut himself off from his curiosity, his wonder, his inner grace and awareness that he is alive in a magnificent world with enough bounty for all, if only we would tap into our inner wild nature where the wild wisdom of life runs free with the knowledge there is bounty all, if only we take our fair share? When did Putin become a narcissist blob cut off from his body, his heart, and his humanity? When did he become a monster?
Seventh Archetypal Animation | When Grace Is Lost
Putin lost his inner grace long ago, and now, alone and cold in a forbidding world, he opens a gate for devils to tumble and fumble their way out into this beautiful world. They rape women, shoot children, bomb maternity hospitals, children’s hospitals, and recreation centers where 1,000 women and children huddle in the dark and cold hoping they might just stop their bombing. Instead, they are crushed under the rubble of another bomb.
I hate Putin. I hate Putin’s army of dead and dying souls. I wish the Free World would grow a stronger backbone and kill this man who has become a Dracula overseeing an army of Zombies. But, we are playing on the “civilized” game board, while Putin plays on the barbarian game board.
However, he won’t win. He might kill a Hell of a lot of people. He might even launch a nuclear bomb, but like so many Ruthless Rulers before him, he will crumble into the dust bin of life. Ruthless Rulers always do.
Oh yes, they might win for a time. And, they might press their smelly likeness onto other human beings, adding to the blob, but he will never win. His zombies will never rule over the multitude as he has promised.
Evil never wins! At least not for long…not as long as there is life to live. Not as long as wood drakes sail on lakes or great herons hunt and devour snakes. Not as long as a single human being wanders down to the waters edges and wonders why this whole thing exists at all. Ponders why we are here amongst the divine majesty of the trillion billion stars above.
Being Human by Being Connected to Each Other & the World
My friend Karen shared this poem with me. We both feel deep pain for suffering the of the people of Ukraine. We both feel helpless in the face of such evil, and yet, we live…and…in the face of such horror, in retaliation to the demonic evil unleashing death, destruction and horror on Earth, Ukrainians fight! They live!
And yes, they are dying by the hundreds of thousands because Putin is a coward and his army is ill-equipped and ill-prepared, indeed, they are unwilling to wage this war, expect for the beasts he’s imported in and the degenerate ones who glory in the gross and disgusting side of life…the ones who are too afraid to love or to know who and what they really are.
Ukrainians know the price of this evil, and they stand against it, and they are winning! They are winning because they remained connected to their humanity and grounded to this Earth–our home, our mother, our true nature. They show us, the Free World, each and every day how to fight for what is right and how to be better human beings!
“In accordance with Quranic verses and traditions, the promised Heaven and Hell are presently in existence and will be completely shown in the hereafter where man will be given his everlasting abode in relation to his beliefs, actions, and ethical traits. But, there has been another form of Heaven and Hell which can be seen in this world through mystical experiences (shahūd) or they will manifest themselves for mankind in the inter-world which will result in either pleasure or pain. There are differences of opinions in regards to the form of influence and relation that one’s beliefs and actions have on his condition in the hereafter and also in the explanation of Heaven, Hell, and their forms.”
“Your love is like a knife to the heart and a dagger to my soul. You will not be happy until I have lost all control You see me in calm waters after drowning me in your river of drama So you continually…“
Music: Meditative Dreamer by James Kenneth |Shamanic Journey (Healing Flute, Wind, Fire & Drums) | Available on Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, and other streaming services.
“The answer to the question whether the Viking berserkers are historical or not remains a mystery. What we know about these figures lie in very few materials. The Viking berserkers are the ones who would wear no metal armour and enter the battlefield. They were armorless and still willing to join the battle to sacrifice not only for their clan but also for Odin the Allfather. Legend had it that the berserkers would howl and scream when they fought against their enemies. They were completely different when they joined the battle. These warriors would know no pain and no fire and flame could burn them.”
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.
— Myths Are Passages Channeling Energies That Can Hold Us Together or Tear Us Apart
The Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles
Part 4 in The Storytelling SpeciesSeries
The truth of any civilization is that it is not a monolithic, inanimate thing. Human civilizations live. They are complex living entities that are fed and sustained by each individual living within it. Because of this, civilizations can die when they become sick or too rigid to flow with the pressurizing forces of time.
Many years ago, long before humans where considered human, the motivation to live together in groups was pretty straight forward—survive. Lots of species on Earth live in groups or herds or packs or flocks because it is beneficial to individual survival. Of course, individual sacrifices are required to live harmoniously in groups. For example, there always seems to be many more low status individuals than high status individuals in a group. However, overall the enhanced survival benefit of being in the group rather than outside of it tends to be a powerful motivator.
The structure of groups and how they operate is determined primarily by instincts. There are lots of similarities in instinctual responses between species because all life has had to adapt to common environmental challenges on Earth, making lots of similarities of group life between species. But, there are plenty of examples of uniquely tuned instincts species have evolved to equip them to thrive in very specific niches, making very unique group structures–consider what it would be like to live inside a beehive.
What Are Instincts?
I will let Dr. Robert Sapolsky tell you about instincts and how human beings are exactly the same in these fixed action patterns as any other mammal on Earth, but also utterly unique in how we use fixed action patterns to do things as individuals and groups. He is a professor of biology, neurology, and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He has possesses an impressive body of field research and artfully combines his mastery of his field with a charismatic ability to communicate with others, allowing him to make complicated concepts understandable to just about anyone.
This is one of his shorter talks that it is well worth listening to if you have ever wondered about human behavior and why we do the things we do. In this talk, Dr. Sapolsky dispels every myth of how humans are unique and different than animals; however, in each instance where we act exactly the same as everyone else here on Earth, he also points out how we do it bigger, more extravagantly, and ostentatiously than any other animal on Earth, and that makes us utterly unique.
Living in groups is one of the things we do as humans that is utterly different than other animals on Earth. When we live in groups, we do it with pizzazz and with style. We like our groups to proceed in a manner and approach that generates vast, complicated, and intricate social systems that operate more like ecosystems, allowing the humans existing within them to seemingly live outside of or beyond the constraints of nature. No other animal lives quite like humans do in groups–that is for sure. Our precocious ingenuity has allowed us to occupy just about every livable niche on the planet. And when we encounter a non-livable niche, we can change it so we can live there too!
Stories of Hermits
It is possible to live utterly alone as a human being and still survive. There are many stories of hermits and monks who have lived alone for years, decades, their entire adult lives. Many are fabled to do this in order to overcome and master their most primal fixed action patterns. But some simply do not want human interaction or the entanglements that human relationships entail. These are important stories. However, our current collective story is not one about a world populated by 7.8 billion hermits. I doubt Earth could even sustain 7.8 billion human beings living utterly alone and unconnected to each other.
For a modern true tale of a man living utterly alone, Snap Judgement tells a riveting tale titled The North Pond Hermit.
Snap Judgment Description:
There was a legend in central Maine, about a hermit who had lived in the woods, unseen, for 30 years. Then, in 2013, the police arrested a man named Christopher Knight.
Produced by Joe Rosenberg, original score by Renzo Gorrio & Andrew Vickers
Why Do We Need to Care About Instincts?
To me, this is simple. If we do not bring our conscious awareness to bear on our daily lives, we are destine to act based on fixed action patterns (e.g., deeply encoded urges, impulses, and instincts). When we live in an unconscious manner, we do not feel and thus cannot fulfill our full potential as a human being. We live rather as our parents, forebears, and ancestors lived seldom taking a moment to consider if what we are doing now, what we have been taught to do and think and believe, is right for the moment we are living in.
When we do not bring our conscious awareness to bear on our constantly changing circumstances, our preprogramming is bound to kick in and run wild. Acting in this way stagnates our spark of consciousness as individuals and as a species. It can even make us lose consciousness, going backwards as an individual or a group (devolving rather than evolving).
In addition to instincts, human beings (being so darn clever and unique in how we live in groups) also bring cultural precepts, religious doctrines, community rules, and all the decrees, commandments, and directives deemed necessary to live in big, complicated societies and civilizations. We willingly agree to abide by these rules whenever we join a new group or alliance or club or clique. It’s the price we pay as human beings to belong to things we think benefit us in some way or another. In highly technological, modern societies, this can add up to be a lot of groups to which an individual must belong. If a person is not careful, this sort of belongingness can end up sabotaging the amount of and quality of consciousness that can be brought to bear, without fear or favor, to our situations, circumstances, struggles, and challenges encountered in life.
When we act unconsciously to our circumstances, we often fail to apprehend, understand, and act in ways that are needed to maintain harmony in our life and in the lives of those around us. Instead, we often end up acting no better than a troop of baboons. However, because we are human, we tend to put highly creative and imaginative spins on making our lives more miserable and difficult than they need to be, if only we would have brought a little more attention and consciousness to the situation, which would have allowed us to see the bigger picture and understand the interconnections present in all events transpiring here on Earth.
Stories Act Like Glue Holding Complicated Groups Together
So what keeps us from tearing each others faces off (like baboons can do when their status is provokedby a young upstart or lower status member)? What allows us to work together in more or less harmonious ways within our massive social conglomerations?
Religions have long served a fundamental role in creating and maintaining cooperative groups. Sports can unify and unite groups, even pull different groups together in friendly competition. Food is a great unifier too, so is music. And so are stories, especially mythical stories that activate numinous content in our psyche (I’ll talk more about this in a moment).
Here are some of the foundational stories that have helped create and define Western Civilization. It is a list put together by the BBC of the top 10 stories of Western Civilization. Let’s look at a few:
1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
Bethanne Patrick, Contributing Editor of Lit Hub, says, “I believe the journey of Odysseus defined a streak of individualism particular to Western culture that has led to much change in the world – good and bad.”
Kenneth W Warren, Professor of English at University of Chicago, agrees. “The Odyssey has provided the architecture for the quest narrative and template for characterising male and female virtue in ways that shape, enable, and limit our storytelling habits into the present.”
Novelist Beverley Naidoo hones in on: “The multiple stories within Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan war, while faithful Penelope waits for him and son Telemachus seeks him, have seeped deep into our cultural consciousness. The human elements within this myriad of stories continue to resonate down the centuries, allowing endless reinterpretation.”
Jenny Bhatt, writer and Contributing Editor at PopMatters calls it “the first widely-read political novel in the US” and “the first work of fiction that openly addressed the cruelty of slavery, human exploitation, the lopsided legal system, the entrenched patriarchy, the need for feminism, and more.” It became one of the most popular books of the century – in the US and abroad – and is credited with radically altering the perception of slavery, with many voters noting its influence on the abolition movement. Its human focus and call for empathy struck a chord among readers.
Author and novelist Roxana Robinson says it “told the story of slavery through the eyes of the enslaved, and was one of the first novels to show black characters as fathers and mothers, parents and children – human beings, who were living under inhuman conditions.”
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
Nilanjana S Roy, novelist and Financial Times columnist, points out: “Frankenstein influenced scientists as well as writers… [and] speaks to the modern fear of the creations that spin out of our control”;
Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, is “the quintessential story of the modern world” says Roger Luckhurst, Professor of Modern-Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, London.
The compelling story of the scientist who brings a creature to life has become one of the most enduring images in modern literature and beyond, and the monster serves as the “ultimate metaphor”, says Lena Wånggren, Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
There is an “uncanny accuracy” says Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at Westminster University, in the book’s definition of modern tyranny: “Now more than ever, we seem to live in the framework it identified… Even the author’s name – ‘Orwellian’ – conjures up a world of thought control. Its precision about the mechanisms of propaganda and the machinery of oppression has got it banned by every authoritarian regime: they are scared of its power to name horror. It is a handbook for those who want to resist.”
All those who chose Orwell’s masterpiece seem to agree on one thing – the novel’s scary prescience. “Big Brother gets all the attention,” says novelist and columnist Nilanjana S Roy. “But it’s the rest, the eagerness to join mobs, to obey, to hurt, that he caught so unforgettably.”
Or, as BBC Culture Editor Rebecca Laurence succinctly puts it: “The ultimate 20th-Century novel becomes the ultimate 21st-Century novel. Terrifying.”
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
Telling the story of the colonisation of a Nigerian tribe from the point of view of an African, Things Fall Apart explodes stereotypes about Africa and brought to life the true impact of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Achebe said that “this was the first time we were seeing ourselves, as autonomous individuals, rather than half-people, or as Conrad would say, ‘rudimentary souls’”.
The European colonial narrative could never be the same after this was published. “It’s an empowering African novel: it brought African experience to the world like no other African fiction has”, according to Dominica Dipio, Associate Professor of Literature at Makerere University in Uganda.
By changing the filter through which the continent was seen, “The novel showed readers what an African world looked like when it was not being reduced to canned images animated by racist assumptions,” says Ainehi Edoro-Glines, a Nigerian academic. “Achebe’s innovation was to change the conventions of modern storytelling so that instead of seeing darkness any time readers looked at Africa, they’d see what every novel was designed to show – a complex representation of life.”
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
“It gets at the primordial human desire for the story that never ends – which can very easily stand for life that never comes to an end.” Ahdaf Soueif, novelist, writer and commentator, points out: “Many characters, motifs and quotations (‘Open Sesame!’) from this set of stories within stories have become common parlance across the world.”
“It’s the deepest of wells,” says novelist and columnist Nilanjana Roy. “In medieval & modern times, from writers to singers and film-makers, we never stopped drawing from it.”
Critic Muneeza Shamsie admires “Sheherazade’s courage, intelligence and confidence and fact she succeeds, asserts the power of storytelling and imagination over tyranny and terror – a concept which has strongly influenced the ideals and ideas of our world.”
Lena Merhej, a comic artist from Lebanon, picked the book “because it gives a subversive voice to a woman that uses it as a weapon for her survival.”
To see the rest and read all of the reasons why these stories were selected, go to the BBC Culture page (note book images come from this page as well).
We Are An Unfolding Story
One could even say the United States’ Declaration of Independence is a collective story of the highest order and complexity that all its citizens (and even its non-citizens for no country or civilization operates in a vacuum no matter how powerful they have grown) play out every day. And so as it is played out, it is written–an unfolding story through time in space.
Manoush Zomorodi introduces him this way: “And it has been a year of thinking how our actions affect our neighbors, a year of realizing that many of our systems do little for the most vulnerable among us and here in the U.S., a year when the population further splintered over what it means to be an American. And so how do we talk about all this stuff without alienating each other? How do we move forward collectively? And what is our civic duty in the 21st century? These are big questions. And so on the show today, we’re going to explore ideas about How To Citizen with Baratunde Thurston. He’s been working on and thinking about this topic for years. And he recently came out with a new podcast series appropriately called How To Citizen.“
Through this episode Manoush and Baratunde explore some of his notable podcasts and TedTalks. The first individuals he brings up is the lawyer and civil rights activist Valarie Kaur and what she calls Revolutionary Love. He tells Manoush, “I picked Valarie as the opening voice in the podcast series, the How To Citizen podcast. I wanted her to offer a spiritual invocation to the whole idea of what it means to citizen as a verb. And that means to commit to each other.”
Thurston highlights something Valarie talks about, which is “In order to love others, see no stranger. We can train our eyes to look upon strangers on the street, on the subway, on the screen and say in our minds, brother, sister, aunt, uncle. When we say this, what we are saying is, you are a part of me I do not yet know. I choose to wonder about you. Number three, in order to love our opponents, tend the wound. Tending to the wound is not healing them. Only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents, the terrorists, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.“
Another person they highlight is
Thurston says, “So yeah. So to empathize and identify with the idea of hurt and pain and to acknowledge that I have played a role in probably someone else’s life where I was the opponent – to extend that to others, that’s when it makes sense to me, and it’s not just this masochistic endeavor.”
The next person Thurston brings up is Eric Liu (who he likes to call Mr. Democracy).
Thurston tells Manoush, “Yeah, I had been talking about this project of How To Citizen for years in some form, and I saw his talk at TED about making civics sexy again and these Civic Saturdays events and sermons, all this kind of religious faith language. But the faith was not in an all-seeing, all-knowing deity. It was in very fallible human beings and our institutions.“
There is much more to this talk and all of it is well worth your time to listen to in full or to read the transcript if you are interested in a healthy, diverse, thriving, democratic system. But this is why I am zeroing in on language and storytelling. We tell the stories through our thoughts, words, deeds, and actions (or non-actions). We are writing our living systems as we live it.
It is hard to keep a democratic nation. It is hard to balance differences (e.g., different perspectives, needs, desires, beliefs) as expressed and lived by lots and lots of different people from all over the world who have come to live in the United States. In the TedTalk mentioned above, Liu says: ” Democracy works only when enough of us believe democracy works.”
It takes work to keep a democracy. One of the most memorable points Liu made was out democracy does not automatically spring from constitutional rules but from the inner workings of civic spirit–that is us. We all contribute to the quality of this spirit and whether it is healthy or not.
I know it is hard to stay informed and to pay attention to all the things a complicated society like the United States of America requires its citizens know, but this sort of knowledge is important for the system to continually sustain and renew itself. It is tempting to clamp down and claim that one’s own personal set of principles or beliefs are the only ones to follow to move forward. It is hard to compromise and walk another’s path.
Moments of Illumination& Seeing More of the Story
One of things I think the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated is weakness in our existing systems of being around the world. Many of these weakness can be traced back to individuals living unconsciously; people choosing to live in narrow channels and closing themselves off to points of views that are not in alignment to their preconceived ideas and beliefs; people who refuse and are unwilling to see the world from someone else’s perspective–to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
An interview with Kai Ryssal of MarketPlace demonstrates vividly what is happening to millions of people who have lost jobs and feel like they have been forgotten, even thrown away by our current system of being in the world. A brief clip from this interview that drills down on the fissures in our system and collective way of doing things that is doing us in as a collective is the following:
Ryssdal: When we talked last time, I don’t even remember what I said, but you in essence said you felt you had been forgotten and overlooked. And just to break the fourth wall a little bit here, we kept in touch and you sent us a text in January that said, and this is you now, “I feel so astonishingly betrayed by the systems responsible for protecting and providing for our nation.” Do you as a guy on the lower rungs of the income ladder in this country, do you feel any hope that it’s going to get better post-virus?
Cairns: You know, I really don’t see a lot of silver lining. We are so eager to get back to normal that we’re probably going to ignore a lot of the lessons learned from this pandemic. You know, restaurants and bars are already trying to go back to business as usual. Customers, people in general, definitely want to just go right back to normal. And without some sort of structure, some sort of system in place to help facilitate people taking things easier, I don’t see how this is going to get much better in the future.
Ryssdal: But Neil, if a bar or restaurant opened up around the corner from you and said, “Hey, we can give you 25 hours a week,” would you do it?
Cairns: Probably. Yeah. I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of choice, and that’s exactly the problem — we should. You know, providing for people in situations like mine, like those who are in worse positions than mine, to be able to stay home, to choose when to go back to work in a way that is best for them, I think is really important, and I don’t see any indication that we’re gonna make any attempt to do that.
How toTell Better Stories
To tell better stories, we need to see each other–everyone. The PBS NewsHour explores this idea in the rising occurrence of hate crimes against Asian Americans. In large part, Trump ignited and inspired this collective hate to be acted out in cruel and brutal ways. He gave a green light to let this hate rip through the delicate fabric that holds us together as an utterly unique collective–something that has never existed on this Earth below at this level, but only if we can keep it, as Thurston so beautifully expresses in the TedTalk above.
In the PBS piece, it is said:
“The absence of knowledge is a way of keeping people fighting each other.” Missing in History – The void of knowledge of Asian Americans has and is being replaced by garbage – caricatures of Asians being animals, disease infested, monsters.”
“The problem is invisibility. Justice is not a zero sum game. Justice is a fabric that extends across all communities.”
To tell better stories, we need to see more of ourself by embracing moments of illumination (often triggered by a crisis, a setback, a disaster) to boldly go where we have not yet ventured inside ourself, the realms where our invisible self dwells. Sometimes to tell better stories means we need to see the biases we harbor, the prejudices we protect, and the injustices we perpetuate. Other times it means seeing the power we have lost because we have projected onto someone else. But when we see it exists inside of us too, we grow stronger, we heal, we become more whole inside–we grow as a conscious being. When we finally see we are the thing we hate, we can even transform.
HiddenBrain did a beautiful piece on the power of stories in transforming ourself.
Description: The Story of Your Life: “We can’t go back and change the past. We can’t erase trauma and hardship. But what if there was a way to regain control of our personal narratives? In the second part of our series on storytelling, we look at how interpreting the stories of our lives — and rewriting them — can change us forever.”
The Power of Myth
This is the power of myths and storytelling. They show us ways to channel the intense energies that surge inside of us when we are provoked by our circumstances. These energies begin as instincts but what consciousness allows us to do is to sees these energies rising before we act on them. This ability gives us a moment to choose an action different than what our innate instincts would otherwise dictate that we do.
In the heat of the moment, many of us may well act on the instinct triggered. However, when we do bring our conscious attention to these moments, we can alter our instincts in a great variety of ways. This is what Jung calls archetypes. They are mirror images of instincts but altered by consciousness. This allows the energy to flow forward in any number of different ways different from how they would have otherwise contained in nature. The number of variations of rising instinctual responses are as vast as the number of human beings who have chosen something differently.
These are the stories of Gods and Goddesses from every culture around the world. These stories tell about what befell a God or Goddess after choosing an altered instinctual response to a situation encountered. Each God and Goddess embodies qualities and energies of our most primal, basic instincts. Together, instincts and archetypes make up the building blocks of the human psyche.
Jung came to believe archetypes are empty templates that we fill anew each time we alter our instinctual responses triggered by circumstances we encounter. They are fluid, flexible, and powerful like water. When we meet our situations and circumstances consciously, we live mythic lives.
A Few Modern Stories Offering Strong Modern Mythic Images to Ponder
A new Netflix series I have loved watching is Invisible City. The trailer says, “What if the legends of your childhood are living in plain sight?” Which of course, they are. This is a beautiful drama that weaves in the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest and its people and animals with Brazilian Folklore entities and deities. Season 1 explores what happens if one of these vital entities gives up.
Previous Post in Storytelling Species Series | Part 3: Death of the Father
Next Post in Storytelling Species Series | Part 5: Collective Storytelling: Who Is Q & What The Heck Is the Plandemic and Anti-Vaxxers All About?!!
The video below is an artistic-musical journey of some of the events that defined and reshaped our shared reality over the past year. It spans natural disasters, disease disasters, and human made disasters that occurred beginning around Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
I began by drawing the sad woman sitting by a fire contemplating something. I drew her early in 2020 before most of what happened transpired. Behind her is a dreamlike landscape, which was drawn some years earlier. However, I felt it belonged in this dream-like landscape. I then wanted images to appear between the flickering fire, but I didn’t know how to choose which ones to draw or feature among all the disasters and terrible things that occurred last year all around the world.
I decided to focus on the United States and found a regional map that I redrew artistically. I found other maps of where fires occurred, where the derecho hit Iowa and left a 750 mile path of destruction, where hurricanes came ashore, where Black Live Matter marches took place after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (my hometown), and where COVID-19 infections were rising. I artistically re-envisioned and redrew these maps as layers that could be used over the Regional Map or alone.
I blended live videos of 2020 events (e.g., driving through fire, driving through the derecho, hurricane mapping and video, Black Live Matter marches) as well as murals painted by artists worldwide honoring George Floyd and/or illuminating the collective struggle of COVID-19 into this video montage of 2020.
Towards the end, I include drawings I made many years earlier. There were lots so many glitches in getting this video posted, including having to throw out 6 songs at the very end and replace them since the musicians did not allow their music to be used with anything other than their original videos. I understand this, it is their creation. However, I am deeply grateful to the musicians who do allow their musicto be used with ad revenue going to them (as it should). I have cited all musicians and tried to give credit to all videos and images used that are not my own drawings or photography. I list these sources in the description section on YouTube.
It is with gratitude I offer Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020
Note: The above video is redone due to a copyright claim on one song that block the first version from being viewed. I have removed that song (and then two subsequent replacement songs that ran into the same issue) and replaced it with more gracious musicians who realize art is meant to create and give birth to new art, always. I will leave a link to the previous video because sometimes these claims get lifted.
I completely support any advertisements that the musicians place on this video so any money goes to them. I have never intended, nor ever will, monetize this video for my own profit. It is meant as a work of art expressing some of the dramatic changes that occurred around the world in 2020. It is a year that will be remembered as the moment the world walked through a doorway from which it will never return to the world it had known in the previous year.
How we move forward from this point depends on the quality of character of every living human being on our planet as measured through mind, heart, and each individual’s ability to see the humanity of all people and the preciousness of all life on earth.
Remembering who we have lost and how our lives have changed is important, especially as we prepare and begin making choices on how to move forward as individuals and as communities. Our choices matter. Without taking time to reflect and to grieve for what has been lost, we are bound to go in circles and repeat fixable mistakes in attitudes and ideas over and over. Taking time to remember and grieve is a sacred act. No matter if your life has been impacted in big or small ways, this past year has caused a pause–and Now is the time to reflect, remember, and cherish the precious gift of life–something that is so fragile and fleeting for all of us. This is how we grow and transform by remembering, reflecting, and cherishing what has been lost and using this remembrance (this accounting of one’s life to this moment in time) to make different choices moving forward.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of the I Ching. It is a book one of my brothers got a long, long time ago. I don’t know how I ended up with it. For years it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was revealing had I picked it up earlier. However, after 5+ years of significant reversals, setbacks, and losses, it really resonates with me today.
Carl Jung said the East charted inner landscapes and developed a deep understanding of who and what we are as conscious living beings while the West turned its time and attention to charting and understanding the outer world. Neither focus is bad. Both are part of reality; however, the Western focus on the reality of the visible, outside world grew lopsided (very lopsided), creating an imbalance in the psyche that resulted in a lost of awareness of sacred inner landscapes forming one’s inner realities. This forgetting has put the wellbeing of individuals in peril, and possibly placed our collective survival as a species, a civilization in jeopardy as well. All hands are needed on deck to heal the chasm created by this extreme lopsidedness; I will tell you more about this in my book: Sapience.
Returning to what I was reading last night that felt like it belonged in this post. I was reading a chapter about the Student-Sage Relationship. The I Ching believes student and sage are one. And, we come to know our inner sage by developing inner discipline and quieting our mind. This is how our inner sage can be heard, understood, and followed for the good of self and the greater good.
What felt like belonged here is the following:
The Sage is polite, but firm in stating cosmic principles.
It is through such firmness that we perceive his total personality as gentle, kind, firm, and correct–one that believes in us in spite of our deviations.
He waits while we exhaust our enthusiasm for false ideas; he allow us to self-destruct if we stubbornly insist upon doing so, but would rather we did not, because, as he tells us, we have the potential for achieving something both great and permanent for the good of all, if we will do it.
While working with the Sage, we feel a nourishing, helpful presence.
If we become arrogant, however, this presences departs and we begin to feel lonely.
We are hardly aware of this presence until we lose it and miss it.
When we return to our path, the presence gradually returns.
It is as if an inner light comes and goes.
By his coming and his going, he teaches us about himself and about our relationship with him.
The book is called: The Philosophy of theI Ching. It was written by Carol K. Anthony who I came to discover recently died in August 2020. She founded her own publishing company and lived close to me. I could have met her had I been a little faster in my curiosity about the I Ching, but time and fate is what it is. Her biography is beautiful:
Carol began her study of the I Ching in 1971, during a mid-life crisis, when she was age 41. Her difficulties made her receptive when a friend, desiring to be of help, introduced her to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It taught her to meditate in a way that helped her to understand what the hexagrams were saying. She kept notes of these insights as they occurred. Within seven years she had a complete set of notes on each hexagram that helped friends understand the hexagrams they received. She quickly realized that her notes filled a unique need. Two meditation experiences led her to publish them under the title, A Guide to the I Ching, and to found Anthony Publishing Company. This book was followed by The Philosophy of the I Ching, in 1981, The Other Way, Experiences in Meditation Based on the I Ching, in 1990, and Love, An Inner Connection, Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching, in 1993. These books interested other publishers and some of them were translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Croatian.
Kojo is retiring soon and will be missed. This was a wonderful look back on a year that turned world upside down.
It was Friday, February 28, 2020 on The Politics Hour when we first covered the coronavirus in any detail. We discussed it again briefly on The Politics Hour a week later. But at that those moments we had no idea how deadly the virus would become and how the year would unfold. We were talking about elbow bumping and hand washing.
Over the days that followed cases started to gradually increase in the D.C. region and throughout the country and the world. And on March 10 we devoted the entire show on the virus with doctors and public health officials and began covering the COVID-19 pandemic regularly.
This broadcast will take a look back at the year of COVID, with insights and reflection from Emergency Physician and Professor Dr. Leana Wen, Washington Post Columnist and Parenting Coach Meghan Leahy, and WAMU/DCist Staff Writer Elliot Williams.
Description:The year 2020 was one of painful loss. We said goodbye to respected leaders and lawmakers, to gifted athletes and entertainers, to people who have inspired us and enriched our lives even if we didn’t know them personally. In some cases, people were taken from us far too soon, victims of a pandemic that has caused death and suffering around the world. And some of those we lost were the victims of grave injustice, cruelly robbed of years of life they might have spent with family, friends and loved ones.
To lose these people is a reminder of the fragility of life, and a reminder to take care of one another to the best of our ability. But in the midst of feeling sorrow for people who are no longer with us, we should also take comfort in the gifts they gave us while they were here. Here, TIME pays tribute to those who left us in 2020, people who changed the world for the better and helped show us a path forward.
The year that COVID built: a look back on 2020
The World Economic Forum put together a wonderful snap shot of 2020 based on what we searched for on the Internet as well as other key moments of 2020.
— 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?
“Old Heraclitus, who was indeed a very great sage, discovered the most marvellous of all psychological laws: the regulative function of opposites. He called it enantiodromia, a running contrariwise, by which he meant that sooner or later everything runs into its opposite.” – Carl Jung
What follows is an accounting of the very common channels psychological energies flow when a conflict gets triggered and grows. These are the very same channels psychological energies flow when a collective conflict is triggered or incited. If you are interested only in my response to Jan 6, 2021, then go to the end of this blog. If you are interested in the psychological maneuvers and levelers of conflict, then keep reading for individual and collective are the same.
In short, when individuals or collectives end up in separate corners during a conflict, refusing to see the other’s reality, the process of enantiodromia is triggered and fate will run its course. Our psychological is very ancient. As such, when speakers at Trump’s 2nd Impeachment Hearing spoke today (1/13/21) that history will be the judge, they are referring to the ancient knowledge only opposites maintained in dynamic balance will stand the tides of time. Lies are sweet and eagerly consumed by the mind, but they are quickly washed away in the onslaught of reality, leaving nothing behind. Truth stands because truth holds opposites in dynamic balance.Truth and reality are one and the same.
I admit, I wondered if Π had read Facebook Folly and if he understood a little bit more why I was angered by his actions. No sooner had I thought this thought than Π showed up on my Facebook page in all his brazen glory.
The answer is no. He didn’t absorb a dam thing. He didn’t express a shred of regret for speaking ignorantly and in a way meant to demean me. In fact, much like Trump has done for 4 long years, he shamelessly repeated and amplified his degrading ideas of Barry and myself by calling my lived reality and Barry’s efforts to understand why I had been removed and blocked from his Facebook group a fantasy. Because of this, I shall respond. He is the one who fired first by making demeaning and degrading comments about me and my ‘dead parent’ behind my back. Then Π pressed go by disparaging Barry in the same scornful way, thus provoking him to share this ‘private conversation‘ with me.
I will take Π‘s latest comments line by line, just as I did in Facebook Folly.
It’sA Little Late to Start Paying Attention
Π: I’m getting a little worried by posts like this, I’m afraid.
In Response: Very funny Π because in the 4 years we’ve been friends on Facebook, this is the first time ever you have ever commented on a blog I wrote and posted on Facebook, including your group, EoST. I wonder what this fear is? Perhaps it stems from your duplicitous nature? Specially, Π, you have pretended to be a kind, caring, and supportive friend to me. Meanwhile, you have privately held very different views as revealed in Facebook Folly. In case you missed it the first time, you are the Fake Π.
Black & White
Π: There’s a gradual polarised demonisation at work – the world is only good and bad, and if not wholly good then it must be bad – which fails to take into account human frailty, brought on by lack of time, human mistakes and observers making faulty assumptions.
In Response: There is no mistake in what you said about me behind my back. That is in black and white.
Dumpster Fires, Demonizing & Fragile Egos
Π: People aren’t evil, on the whole, but they generally do carry a great deal of human frailty, and demonising that serves only to pour petrol on the dumpster fire.
In Response: When an individual talks about another individual in a sneering, disparaging, dismissive, and disdainful way behind their back, who is demonizing who? Who held the gasoline can of scorn, then poured the petrol of disdain,derision, and contempt onto a fire that started out as a simple misunderstanding?
Good & Evil
Π: I make only one exception to that, in my lifetime, and the US wisely has just fired him. Things will get better from here.
In Response: Really, there is only 1 evil man in the entire world in your lived experience? How about Putin who ordered the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko (the first known victim of lethal polonium 210-induced acute radiation syndrome). Or what about Sergei and Yulia Skripal who were poisoned by Novichok and lay near death in a British hospital near Salisbury for weeks, not to mention the death of an innocent citizen of Salisbury who accidentally came into contact with this poison that only Putin could have ordered to be used.
And most recently, Alexei Anatolievich Navalny was also poison by Novichok. The man who poisoned him said he sprinkled it in his underwear, along the flaps. “You know,” he said matter-of-factly, “the kind men’s underwear have“–imagine that. Perhaps if evil is done methodically and matter-of-factly it’s not so bad, as far as evil goes. Perhaps even, if you spin well, it’s not evil at all… it’s just the business of getting one’s way over the wellbeing and good of others.
“Navalny fell sick during the Aug. 20 flight in Russia and was flown to Berlin while still in a coma for treatment two days later. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.”
“The man in the recording indicated that he was involved in cleaning up Navalny’s clothes “so that there wouldn’t be any traces” after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top critic fell into a coma while on a domestic flight over Siberia. During the recorded call, the man said that if the plane hadn’t made an emergency landing, “the situation would have turned out differently.”
I suppose Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man who is believed to have behead Daniel Pearl, is simply carrying a great deal of human frailty too. His pending release is being widely reported now by BBC, NYP, and many other news outlets. This killing spurred the highly choreographed beheadings of Western journalists in the years to come. But apparently, no evil here, just human frailty at work.
Here & NowDescription: “The lawyer for a Pakistani man convicted and later acquitted in the 2002 killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl is asking Pakistan’s Supreme Court to free his client.”
“Pearl, a 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter, was abducted on Jan. 23, 2002. His body was later found in a shallow grave in Pakistan.”
And as for America will get better from here: Are you kidding man? Did you see what happened on Jan 6, 2021?
The far-right Trump insurgency just scored a huge propaganda coup (Jan. 8, 2021 at 11:28 a.m. EST) — Opinion by Greg Sargent
These are some of the extremist groups responsible for the violence on Capitol Hill (Jan 8, 2021) by Christy Somos CTVNews.ca Writer
“The mob of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters who overran police and stormed Washington’s Capitol Hill included members of several well-known extremist and white-supremacist groups.”
“The violence did not come as a surprise to Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre for Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.”
“I think I was [only] surprised that it took that long for something like this to happen. A lot of us had anticipated that we would see violence immediately following the election, especially if he [Donald Trump] lost,” Perry said in a phone interview with CTV News.ca Friday.”
“Perry said she agrees that there has been a “mainstreaming of hate,” in recent years, and that the attack on the Capitol was a perfect example of it.”
To be clear, what happened on Jan 6, 2021 is not going away any time soon. The attack on the Capitol is just the beginning of evil and good mixing it up, this time in the USA, just as it has been doing for as a long human beings could perceive of the concepts of good and evil.
“The violence at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was unprecedented in modern U.S. history — but some pro-Trump extremists are promising it was just a taste of things to come.”
“What happened on Jan. 6, this past Wednesday, might not be the end of the insurrection, but the beginning,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois told NPR’s Weekend Edition. [As Inauguration Nears, Concern Of More Violence Grows, Jan 9, 2021
If you listen to only one thing listed in this post, this is the one that must be heard. Reveal takes aim on the myth that Jan 6, 2021 is not who and what America is. In fact, what happened on Jan 6, 2021 is exactly who and what America is. In fact, it is the latest wave of the Civil War, which has never really ended ever since it was fought (1861 to 1865)—156 years ago. The war has simply taken different shapes and used different tactics throughout this time. What happened Jan 6, 2021 is the latest surge of a very long, brutal battle for who holds the power in this fragile democracy.
Description:A mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, aiming to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. How did we get here?
We start by examining President Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the last four years, as he stoked conspiracy theories, coddled White supremacists and laid the groundwork for inciting violence.
Host Al Letson talks with Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who took shelter in his office during the insurrection. They discuss what it was like inside the Capitol and the legacy these actions will leave on American democracy.
We hear from two reporters who were also at the Capitol. Independent reporter Brendan Gutenschwager and Washington Post reporter Marissa J. Lang say there was a big difference between the meager police response to the Trump supporters compared with the massive show of force with which they met Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer.
Then we look back at another coup in American historythat has eerie echoes of this week’s events. In the late 19th century, Wilmington, North Carolina, was a city where African Americans thrived economically and held elected office. This, however, did not sit well withWhite supremacists, who plotted to retake control of the city from democratically elected Black leaders.Their coup in 1898 set in place the structural racism that still exists today.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s Message Following this Week’s Attack on the Capitol
Schwarzenegger talks about how lies lead to the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht), which was one of the first events to take place in the lead up to the holocaust and WWII. To repair all the broken relationships that have been shattered more by decades of lies (FoxNews/Rupert Murdoch) and then supercharged and radicalized by 4 years of Trump, it is not going to be easy.
Judge & Jury of Someone Else’s Reality
Π: What I’m seeing in the story above is a fantasy unrolling, fed by folk who struggle to see beyond good and bad, and who assume that “their side is always in the right”.
In Response: That is a pretty dismissive, judgmental, and downright cruel comment to make about another person’s lived experience. I understand what Π is trying to do. He is trying to deflect blame from himself, again. It is obvious he didn’t even read the post he is commenting on. I will respond to his self-conceited comment with a story.
My father was a Lutheran minister. There’s not much money in being a Lutheran minister, but that’s not why dad was one. However, he did have a family and needed to provide for them. So despite loving the network of congregations he as serving in Northern California, he decided to accept the call from a fairly big congregation located in a very small town in South Dakota. It was a town you could probably throw a baseball right through downtown if you had a good throwing arm, but it served all the famers surrounding the town growing corn and soybeans feeding Americans and the world, so the congregation was quite big. This allowed them to not only provide a parsonage for the family to live in but also a salary—something none of the congregations in California could provide, only one could provide a parsonage and so my mother has to work to feed us.
It was heart-wrenching and terrible to move from the Redwoods of Northern California to the prairies of South Dakota. My brothers and I loved the trees of Redway. We roamed the mountainside behind our parsonage setting traps for Bigfoot and rabbits. I just remember feeling completely devastated seeing the flat, barren landscape of the prairie made barren by monolith fields of corn and soybeans—one after another after another. But dad had grown up on farm in Iowa and mom had grown up in parsonages scattered from MN to WI to IA, and so both my parents were happy to return to the heartland.
As we caravanned from Redway to Sinai, South Dakota, dad driving the U-Haul and mom driving the family station wagon, mom gave me Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn’t like it at first, but really had nothing else to do, so I kept reading. It would be a book that would save my broken heart and help me find new dreams to build my drastically transformed life around. We lost our beloved cat Puff on the way to Sinai. She got out of our car and wandered off somewhere in Oregon or Idaho at a campground we stopped at to sleep along the way. She was the first pet we ever had as children. Dad brought her home to us in paper bag, surprising us with a gleeful smile on his face. She was so glorious, a spicey calico cat who had lots of babies (these were the days before sterilizing pets was the norm). I am glad of this though because with us were some of Puff’s kittens—the ones we could not find homes for before leaving Northern California, so they were traveling with us to South Dakota. We had a mini, calico kitten who was missing one paw on her front leg. But that didn’t stop her. She would prove to be just as spicy as her mother and as fertile.
Arriving to our new home was disappointing to be sure. However, the churches were beautiful and I would grow to love the big parsonage we moved into. I believe we arrived in Sinai the day before the 4th of July. We would find out soon the 4th of July is big stuff in small town, middle of the heartland of America. There was a town parade where all the children decorated their bikes with tissue paper and glittery things (that first year we kids did not have time to enter but subsequent years we sure did! It was a big deal!). There were bands and a huge firework display by the church where my dad would preach. And there was a day of festivities and games happening throughout the day—like a mini state fair. One of the activities that first full day in Sinai was the greased pig contest.
Yes—it is exactly what it says. A local farmer donates a young pig. It is greased from head to toe and put inside a pen. Then all the children who sign up for the contest line up behind the fence. When the whistle is blown, the idea is to climb over as fast as you can and race for the pig. The kid who holds is around the belly the longest gets to keep the pig!
Boy—now moving to Sinai, South Dakota was suddenly looking a lot more interesting. I was going to get that pig! I scrambled through the milieu of girls and boys I did not know. I got to the pig and I grabbed it around it’s center. I did not let go. I held on. There was a boy you held the pig around its neck on one side of me and another you had the pig around its back legs, but I had the center. By their rules: I won! I get to keep the pig!
I heard a whistle blow and one by one all the other children piled on top of the three of us were picked off of us and told to leave the ring until only the three of us were left. I was sure I would be declared the winner. But then I felt a tap on my head. The farmer officiating the greased pig contest told me I had to leave, and the two boys would get to compete for the pig in the end.
I couldn’t believe I was being told to leave. I was the one holding the pig around its belly. I was covered in grease from head to toe. I was incensed by the double standard being displayed by the judge. But I had no power. I had to leave. I did not stay to watch which boy won. This would not be the last time I or my family would experience such hypocrisy.
It would play out again but next time in a much more deadly way. The coming conflict would unravel slowly over a period of about 3 years. During this time, I found a way to love the prairie, I made many friends, dad even got me a pony who had a foal. Now that was sure the heck better than a pig. We had a huge garden dad tilled and grew all sorts of things—corn, squash, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes. He gave each of us small plots in the garden and taught us how to grow delicious, healthy vegetables. We also had an orchard, about 8 or 10 trees—each one a different kind of apple. Each of us kids got to pick a tree and build a tree fork. I think I took the crab apple or maybe that tree was Pete’s tree. We played scary chase games around the church. We built massive snow forts in the mega drifts of snow that were left behind after blizzards. One year, the blizzard was so bad, it blew snow drifts that reached the roof of the church. School was cancelled for weeks that year and we kid’s tunneled snow forts into the drifts surrounding the church, which was also cancelled for weeks. Those forts lasted for weeks!
We roamed the town and railways, making forts and hideouts everywhere. Some of our favorite hauntings were the old schoolhouse long ago left abandoned with old molding books and cups and plates and silverware still inside. We weren’t supposed to go inside the old school, but that just made it all the more fun to go. We also frequented the old, abandoned jail house, down a steep hill from the one block downtown. It was really nothing more than a one room building made completely out of concrete with bars for windows. We loved it! We also had a place just outside of town, perhaps a mile or so walking down the railroad tracks to a bridge where a train long ago had derailed and dropped a bunch of polished marble—big slabs.
Dad faithfully served the two churches partnering together to offer him the call. He got to know every family of both congregations by first name, every member and visited anyone in need at any time. He was beloved by many members of both congregations. Mom sang in the choir and helped with Sunday School and Summer Bible Camps. We were soon knitted into the fabric of the small-town community of Sinai, South Dakota. But there were rips in the fabric.
While dad was a Lutheran pastor, he loved science and read about all sort of scientific discoveries. He took us to see fossils in the Black Hills. We talked about how fantastic the Earth was and how much time it has existed in the universe. To dad, it was completely possible to believe in science and in God the Father, creator of the universe. To him, God used the mechanisms of physics and evolution to get to us. To him, this did not diminish who we are as human beings, sons and daughters of our Lord the Savior, but this made us so much more precious and important.
Dad sometimes wove some of his thoughts and enthusiasm into his sermons. To some who heard these ideas coming out of the mouth of their pastor, it was blasphemy—a foolish fantasy that had to be dispelled. A coalition went to work against my father. One of the leaders of this coalition was the mayor of our small town who also happened to be the butcher.
I believed they tried to get dad never to utter such fantastical nonsense every again in church or anywhere where his congregation members might hear him. But that was not my dad. The division and the divisiveness grew wider and more aggressive. It would cumulate and boil over one fateful day when our dog Reckless (a black lab) disappeared. My dad would soon discover, the mayor had captured Reckless, taken him to his butcher’s shop in the center of town, and shot him dead, then disposed of his body with the rest of the used pieces of the cows and pigs he butchered that day.
We probably stayed one more year after that, but the writing was on the wall. Dad didn’t fit in there, and he was no longer welcomed there. I’m pretty sure shortly after Reckless death, he started looking for another call. It would take him a year to find an opening. It was the last year he would serve as a minister in a Lutheran church. He decided the politics were just too toxic. He entered a program to become a hospital chaplain. Soon we moved again. This time to a city, Minneapolis. It was another hard move for me to make. I had grown to love the prairie and the life I had learned to live there! It would take years to learn how to grow into and live in the city, but I would do that too, eventually and grow to love Minneapolis deeply as well.
It is so easy to be the judge and jury of another person’s experiences and their reality. Unfortunately, the human brain seems wired this way. Maybe we do it to simplify reality so we aren’t paralyzed by it. Reality is always so much more complicated than a single human being can perceive. This is why we need each other to understand more of it. But, when we judge each other in overly simplified ways, we fracture it instead. When we judge each other, we also stop seeing each other as human. Maybe we do this because we fear the ‘other’ might pop our own overly simplified bubble of belief about what the world is.
So dear reader, you tell me who is struggling to see beyond good and bad. Who is making the assumption that “their side is always in the right”.
Ah — The Promised Land
Π: I suggest reading Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land.
In Response: I suggest you read it again. Perhaps you missed a few things the first time you read it.
“there are people in the world who think only about themselves. They don’t care what happens to other people so long as they get what they want. They put other people down to make themselves feel important. “Then there are people who do the opposite, who are able to imagine how others must feel, and make sure that they don’t do things that hurt people. “So,” she said, looking me squarely in the eye. “Which kind of person do you want to be?” ― Barack Obama,A Promised Land
“Either grab a drink and sit down with us or get the fuck out of here.” ― Barack Obama,A Promised Land
“there was the unsettling fact that, despite whatever my mother might claim, the bullies, cheats, and self-promoters seemed to be doing quite well, while those she considered good and decent people seemed to get screwed an awful lot.” ― Barack Obama,A Promised Land
“The truth is, I’ve never been a big believer in destiny. I worry that it encourages resignation in the down-and-out and complacency among the powerful.” ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land
“I’d met my share of highly credentialed, high-IQ morons” ― Barack Obama,A Promised Land
“I suspect that God’s plan, whatever it is, works on a scale too large to admit our mortal tribulations; that in a single lifetime, accidents and happenstance determine more than we care to admit; and that the best we can do is to try to align ourselves with what we feel is right and construct some meaning out of our confusion, and with grace and nerve play at each moment the hand that we’re dealt.” ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land
“I experienced failure and learned to buck up so I could rally those who’d put their trust in me. I suffered rejections and insults often enough to stop fearing them. In other words, I grew up—and got my sense of humor back.” ― Barack Obama,A Promised Land
“Perhaps most troubling of all, our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis—a crisis rooted in a fundamental contest between two opposing visions of what America is and what it should be; a crisis that has left the body politic divided, angry, and mistrustful, and has allowed for an ongoing breach of institutional norms, procedural safeguards, and the adherence to basic facts that both Republicans and Democrats once took for granted.” ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land
Paying Attention Takes More Then News Headlines & Quick Quips
Π: This shows the dangers of this polarised approach, which includes the US inability to sign the Kyoto Treaty, why the US is sometimes slower to act than the world would like, and why the US makes policy mistakes.
In Response: So glad Barack’s book has given you, a person who sits across the pond, such a broad and insightful understanding of America. I have been sharing countless blogs in your beloved group in this past year (2020) about what is going on here. I live less than 15 miles from the White House. I’ve gone to protests (Black Lives Matter and MAGA).
Oh, and I’ve also been to these minor events that have occurred in Washington, DC (and these are just a few of the interviews I’ve done):
I follow the news closely and digest it in my blogs. But, you couldn’t be bothered. And, I had to call your attention to the potty-mouth members of your group who were using immature words for vagina. Apparently, just the sight of a naked woman is enough to send their minds down to the bottom of their trunks.
I shared the post below in EoST at the end of July. This piece speaks specifically to the growing alarm at this time (last summer) about what Trump was doing to the psyche and minds of his loyal followers. It was clear back then he was twisting words and staging events to get images of out-of-control Black Lives Matter protestors so he could use them to enflame his base during his campaign.
Sadly, now we see where all this energy is flowing after Trump lost the 2020 election. This is energy man. It is produced inside the mind. It does not just disappear, especially after being super-charged by lies and misinformation used to construct a psychological monster. Many of Trump’s super-charged supporters were hunting for Pence to hang him simply for his ceremonial role of certifying the election results for 2020. But, no one in your group wanted to talk about this possibility back in July 2020. They just wanted to name all the other words for vagina. And you really never took any meaningful action about this behavior even after I called your attention to it occurring in EoST.
To Stop Dismissing & Belittling Takes a Lot of Work Too
Π: Bi partisan work takes a lot of horse trading, and the simplistic adoption of I’m right you’re wrong attitudes really, really doesn’t help …
In Response: Just like the UK demonstrated its superior bi partisan work in leaving the European Union? And what precisely does bi partisan work have to do with a personal conflict? One you started by dismissing and belittling me to Barry as he tried to get to the bottom of why I was removed and blocked from EoST.
You Are Not My Friend
Π: Rather than fantasise about motives and evil in the world, if there are real problems, then seek real solutions, with the people concerned. Critique and run will never solve any problems.
In Response: You belittled me behind my back. You didn’t think I had the guts to fight back. You were wrong. Your actions are wrong. I am nothing like how you have painted me to Barry and others. I am not trading horses with you. You are not my friend. You are my (click here to find out what you are).
This is Not a Fantasy
I have digested all the disparaging ill-will you’ve privately held against me and then shared with Barry. You are the fake—fake compassion, fake sympathy, fake concern for another human being. None of it is real, and then you have the gall to call what Barry and I have recounted as fantasy.
That’s when I understood (as I digested how my own lived reality was being dismissed as fantasy) how deadly such a dismissal of another human being’s lived experience and beliefs can be.
In response to you Π, all I can say is that I once held you in high esteem and admiration. Now, I only feel disgust. As Barry pointed out, there is a psychological process of Enantiodromia (the tendency of things to morph into their opposites) that goes on in all human minds, mostly unconsciously. Mine has been completed of you. You emerged out of the mists of obscurity and back to obscurity I return you. You do not get to define who I am. I define who I am.
In response to Jan 6, 2021, we are living through a moment of cultural, moral, and spiritual reckoning. The episode I’ve noted above from Reveal (Democracy Under Siege) is critical to listen to in order to understand what I am going to say next. Lacking this perspective (and/or lacking the willingness to absorb the facts of reality as it is and as it has been lived by black and brown people for far too long) about the long history of racism in American, you the reader will be trapped in your narrative bubble of reality.
In short, what we are witnessing is the enantiodromia of The Republican Party. Yes, enantiodromia can occur in groups as well as individuals. It is a psychological process, but long ago, mankind learned how to collectivize his individual psyche with his collective. It was necessary long, long ago to survive. Modern man is playing a dangerous game with his ability to synch his mind with a group he or she chooses to follow. I will not bore you with the details of the psychological underpinnings of what I am saying, but I do not say this in ignorance. Carl Jung and many others since him have opened a channel back into our collective unconsciousness. It is a channel purposefully blocked off and closed to everyone living in Western Civilization. Lacking access to our individual reservoir of knowledge, wisdom, as well as monstrous potential to do harm, we will destroy ourselves as a species.
Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president of the United States of America. The Republican Party is also referred to as the GOP (Grand Old Party). Under Lincoln’s leadership, the United States took a stand against slavery, entered into a bitter Civil War, and successfully banned it in 1865. This was a party that stood for courage, compassion, truthfulness, and the noble goodness of all men and women.
In the wake of the Civil War, all the psychological energy of the losing side did not disappear. It submerged under the threshold of our nation’s collective consciousness re-consolidating itself in hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. The first Klan was founded in the tremendous wake of the Civil War in 1865. It is an American white supremacist hate group whose primary targets are African Americans whose roots have spread across the country. But there was much more hate circulating under the threshold of consciousness of the American people. Reveal shows how the coup of 1898 that occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina (under the guise of Democratic Party of that time) provided a template for other vicious waves of hate that would manifest as Jim Crow laws, the 1921 massacre of Black Wall street in Tulsa, OK, hangings of so many innocent black men and women, cross burnings design to instill terror, and the seedings of white supremacist hate group around the world, the United States having by far the most (Germany a close second…remember Hitler).
What we witnessed on Jan 6, 2021 was the full and complete enantiodromia of the Republican party. It has become the thing it stood against more than 156 years ago. Indeed the Civil War has not ended. What we witness was more than coup on the capitol. It is a coup of the hearts and minds of the Republican Party that is infecting this group of people with the fuel of hate, lies, and misinformation that Trump ignited into a roaring fire on Jan 6, 2021.
Christopher Kerbs who was the Senior National Cyber Security Official fired by Trump because he came out against Trump and said the 2020 election was one of the most secure and accurate elections ever said recently, “We are on the verge of a breakdown of democracy and civil society. It is the equivalent of ignoring pain in your chest for a couple weeks, and then suffering a catastrophic heart attack. If you tell a lie big enough and often enough, people are going to believe it.” Kerbs says the most dangerous thing Trump has done is to synchronize all the hate groups in America that have long fought between each other with differing ideological views. Trump became a center of gravity that has organized them into a wave of action that is truly terrifying and is not done.
As I continue the blog series: The Storytelling Species — Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles, I will trace the roots of how simple conflicts such as described about between me and Π can erupt into great divides. If consciousness is not brought to bear on the powerful forces that rise from the Sea of Unconsciousness created from the cracks of conflict, powerful and destructive forces rise and flow into the conscious mind. These are fluid forces fully capable of hijacking the small and fragile light we call the ego. If this happens, hell flows forth. All humanity floats on this massive psychological sea living inside of all of us. It is our job as a conscious species to transform our own individual pool of unconsciousness into consciousness. When we fail to do this but rather retreat into smaller and smaller bubbles of reality that are spiked by lies, misinformation, and fear, tragic and terrible destruction can result. We are the creators of Hell on Earth. We do it using nothing more than our minds.
Description: It’s easy to spot bias in other people, especially those with whom we disagree. But it’s not so easy to recognize our own biases. Psychologist Emily Pronin says it’s partly because of our brain architecture. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore what Pronin calls the introspection illusion.
Description:Right now, many kids aren’t in their classrooms — but there is so much to learn outside of school as well. This hour, TED speakers explore life lessons that teach us far more than any textbook.
“We no longer agree on a common set of facts, on a common reality, and that is a big problem for democracy.”— David Becker, Center for Election Innovation and Research, Jan 6, 2021 on 1A
Part 1 in The Storytelling SpeciesSeries
A DANGEROUS GAME
2020 – what more need be said. It was a year of enormous reversals, lost, and tragedy. Colossal waves of misery circumnavigated the global hitting every continent of consciousness like tsunamis of misfortune. These billowing waves of ruin quickly laid waste to norms, routines, and traditions keeping humanity flowing in elaborately engineered channels of business-as-usual.
The cause of this terrific ruinous wave was not a stupendous subterranean seismic shift. Rather it was a submicroscopic infectious bundle of nucleic acid molecules. A minute bundle of pre-life substances that decided long ago it was far more effective to replicate itself inside of the cells of living organisms emerging at the same time long ago. Rather than grow all those high energy organelles themselves, this teensy-weensy replicon simply evolved the capacity to bind to cells of living beings and invade them. Upon gaining entry, the little replicons go to work doing what they are best at doing: replicating. It’s not that hard to understand how a thing that replicates so much mutates and jumps from one species to another.
Before 2020 was half over, it was clear no part of the globe would be spared from the tiny replicon that made the jump to us, and then it got worse. Nevertheless, small pockets of human triumph emerged (places in the world where quick collective action kept the little replicon at bay). I found this website tracking which countries are winning in the fight against COVID-19, which are nearly there, and which need action. I was surprised because thought I knew which ones were winning. It turns out many countries I thought were doing fine have faltered, while others who are winning or nearly there, I’ve never heard of—places like Djibouti, Holy See, and Vanuatu.
To be sure, many of these are smaller countries or island nations, which naturally confers an advantage in winning the war against this tiny replicon. However, the most powerful tool in the arsenal of every continent of consciousness has been messaging a rather new type of communiqué to emerge in the human world. It is a word used frequently in workplace settings. But it is also used wherever there is a need to get a lot of people on the same page to accomplish a collective action.
Study.com defines messaging into 3 types: 1) informational messages communicate routine, repetitive daily tasks or convey instructions, codes, steps, or workplace procedures; 2) persuasive messages are designed to convince an individual or group to take certain specific actions; and 3) goodwill messages are used to show or instill a sense of kindness or friendliness in a workplace or community.
To combat COVID-19, blending these 3 types of messaging together has proved to be the most effective strategy in repelling the tiny virion. It turns out this blend of messaging is a modern distillation of a much older form of human communication, storytelling.
Every people, culture, and civilization that has ever existed has stories that are passed down from one generation to the next. Stories tell what has happened to the people through time. Stories weave wonderous narratives of where the people have come from and where they may be going. Stories entertain, frighten, warn, and make fun of aspects of being human and of living together in groups. Some of our most beloved stories are of individuals who overcome overwhelming obstacles to accomplish something extraordinary that benefits the people. These are the stories of heroes, winners, celebrities, and luminaries—a civilization’s shining stars of how to be a superb human being in the adoring eyes of all its citizen members.
Almost as beloved but for different reasons are stories of individual who commit dreadful, appalling, horrifying atrocities on other living beings. These stories tend to serve as warnings But sometimes they get twisted and become a template for emptying the space inside the minds of individual citizens and filling this space with warped and twisted content designed to serve the narrator of these stories. When this happens, it is always a dangerous time for everyone in a group.
Stories have long been used to galvanize collective action for as long as mankind can remember. They are powerful tools because they work inside the invisible spaces of the human mind. They settle into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. They take root and grow within the human soul.
Throughout human history stories have galvanized individuals living within a group or civilization to strive for something greater or for something mingy. Stories reveal the best and worst of the people who tell them because they reveal pieces of their soul.
As the global pandemic made its watery march around the world, I began to see stories emerge from people that shocked and surprised me. Many stories barely clung to reality. Rather these stories seemed to float in the air like colorful bubbles that would most surely pop as soon as encountering the first blade of grass growing out of the Rock of Reality… the one we all live on… our beloved Planet Earth.
In this blog series, I will explore how stories alter human reality. It is something we’ve been doing for a very long time. The difference now is there are so many more humans living on Earth all creating slightly different versions of reality inside their mind. These realities take form and burst into the world whenever an individual acts upon their inner stories. All of us have them. These are the stories we tell ourselves about what has happened to us through space and time. It is self-talk, but inner talk that creates bubble-like realities inside our minds.
We need these mind bubbles. They generate energy that power our minds. It is very much like how living cells grew organelles, little bubbles, inside the cell to power the cell, creating life! Mind bubbles create awaken consciousness. There are other organelles inside the mind creating human consciousness, but I will focus on the ones creating mind bubbles through stories, which we consume to feed our mind.
Most modern human beings have forgotten this. Forgetting this, we have descended into consumption patterns that are quite destructive. It’s a lot like eating fatty, sugary, highly processed morsels of food that has become more artificial than natural to sustain the body. It doesn’t end well. The same is true of feeding the human mind, it requires nourishment and this nourishment sustains the soul.
I believe humanity is playing a dangerous game. Most of it is occurs inside our minds until it erupts into action. When action is informed by reality, humans have done and accomplished amazing feats. However, when human action is informed by human fantasy and misinformation, terrible things can occur.
Today, one of these bubbles popped in a most distributing way.
Most of us have stumbled into this game. Many have been pushed by super manipulators of dangerous and false narratives. What these stories do is stir up sleeping forces living deep inside us. Most modern men and women have forgotten they are there. Without the light of consciousness, they can be deadly. It is a game humanity has been playing for awhile and it has been steadily dragging the entire world to the brink of catastrophe. If humanity survives this game, future humans will remember 2020 and the beginning of 2021 as the beginning of the coming catastrophe that will resonate throughout the entire century created by a meltdown of the human mind.
In upcoming blogs, I’ll explain more of what I mean that we are a storytelling species playing a dangerous game of bubble realities. These games transpire inside our minds and can turn off our hearts. This ability gives humans tremendous power. Stories can ignite the human soul and inspire it to act in terrible ways. Stories can also extinguish the flame of destruction and heal hearts and souls. Both of these potentials come from inside us. As perhaps the only storytelling species of planet Earth, we hold the magical power to create or destroy our shared reality through stories.
Yesterday, I was working on this piece while listening to NPR as I usually do. When it got towards 1:00 p.m., FreshAir was airing something I was not as interested in when it occurred to be that the Congressional counts were beginning. So I turned on CNN and listened to it as I wrote. I did not intend to put the videos and pictures above in this piece. At that moment in time, the reality bubble had not yet popped and spilled into reality in disturbing, violent ways.
Just before it did, I began taking pictures and videos to make a short video about dogs watching history (like I did one year earlier during the Impeachment Hearings). I thought it funny and a nice way to document and remember this historic moment. I finished this video just before the Capitol was invaded on Jan 6, 2021–incited by the President’s speech one hour earlier and his steady drip of misinformation that he won the 2020 election by a landslide and the election was stolen from him.
Here is the first video I made yesterday. Moments after making this, CNN began to cut to marchers surging upon the Capitol.
After the Capitol was breached and distributing reports streamed across the airways, I kept filming and made a second more serious video.
These are the Impeachment with dog videos I made a year ago.
This was on the ground footage of one of the first Pro-Trump rally in DC.
And, this was one of first Black Lives Matter protests in DC after Trump violently cleared Lafayette Square for a photo opt.
Some of Jan 6, 2021 AfterMath
Who were the groups at the rally? By Shayan Sardarizadeh of BBC Monitoring — I will be talking about QAnon a little be later in this series. I heard about this guy. Pretty stunning.
I have been following Anne over the past year as she is an expert in these matters and really, really smart! She opens her piece in The Atlantic saying:
“We have promoted democracy in our movies and books. We speak of democracy in our speeches and lectures. We even sing about democracy, from sea to shining sea, in our national songs. We have entire government bureaus devoted to thinking about how we can help other countries become and remain democratic. We fund institutions that do the same.
And yet by far the most important weapon that the United States of America has ever wielded—in defense of democracy, in defense of political liberty, in defense of universal rights, in defense of the rule of law—was the power of example. In the end, it wasn’t our words, our songs, our diplomacy, or even our money or our military power that mattered. It was rather the things we had achieved: the two and a half centuries of peaceful transitions of power, the slow but massive expansion of the franchise, and the long, seemingly solid traditions of civilized debate.“
… She talks about the years after WWII and how America stood as an example, but more than that… a symbol of democracy. Symbols act very powerfully inside the human psyche. Stories use symbols to conduct their magic. Anne goes on saying:
“During this period, many American politicians and diplomats mistakenly imagined that it was their clever words or deeds that persuaded others to join what eventually became a very broad, international democratic alliance. But they were wrong. It was not them; it was us—our example.
Over the past four years, that example has been badly damaged. We elected a president who refused to recognize the democratic process. We stood by while some members of Donald Trump’s party cynically colluded with him, helping him break laws and rules designed to restrain him. We indulged his cheerleading “media”—professional liars who pretended to believe the president’s stories, including his invented claims of massive voter fraud. Then came the denouement: an awkward, cack-handed invasion of the Capitol by the president’s supporters, some dressed in strange costumes, others sporting Nazi symbols or waving Confederate flags. They achieved the president’s goal: They brought the official certification of the Electoral College vote to a halt. House and Senate members and Vice President Mike Pence were escorted out of the legislative chambers. Their staff members were told to shelter in place. A woman was shot to death.“
… Anne talks about how anti-democratic countries are and will continue to use what happened yesterday to push down democratic efforts among their people. They are already twisting what happened at the Capitol yesterday equating the rioters who rampaged the Capitol as the same as the demonstrators in places such as Russia and China that have violently dealt with individuals seeking free and fair elections, equating the MAGA rioters ignited by a false narrative promoted by Trump as the same.
“America’s enemies said less but surely enjoyed the images more. Yesterday morning, after all, the Chinese government arrested the leaders of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. In 2020, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who did so much to put Donald Trump in the White House, was accused of poisoning his most important political opponent, Alexei Navalny. In recent memory, the Saudi crown prince ordered the gruesome murder of a journalist who was one of his most prominent critics; Iranian, Belarusian, and Venezuelan leaders regularly beat and imprison dissidents in their countries.
After the riot at the Capitol, all of them will feel more confident, more secure in their positions. They use violence to prevent peaceful debate and peaceful transfers of power; now they have observed that the American president does too. Trump has not ordered the murder of his enemies. But now nobody can be sure of what he might do in order to maintain power. Schadenfreude will be the dominant emotion in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Caracas, Riyadh, and Minsk. The leaders of those cities—men sitting in well-appointed palaces, surrounded by security guards—will enjoy the scenes from Washington, relishing the sight of the U.S. brought so low.“
Yes indeed, America was significantly damaged yesterday–all in the service of one man’s bruised ego.
Slate’s Aymann Ismail was with some of the insurrectionists as they breached the Capitol:
The people I managed to speak to didn’t seem to understand the gravity of what they had done. Inside a building they had broken into, they described themselves as “peaceful” to me. I talked to a kid from Florida, who must have been no more than 17 or 18. He told me, “This is nothing compared to what Antifa does.” I said, “Look, they’re breaking the glass.” He answered, “Yeah, but at least they’re not destroying the things.” I showed him pictures of things destroyed. It didn’t register. On the way up, there was a woman holding a sign saying, “If we were leftists, we would be rioting.”
After multiple calls to do so by Republicans and Democrats, in the afternoon, President Trump asked the mob to stay peaceful. In the same video posted to Twitter, President Trump also insisted the election was stolen from him, which is a lie. After these videos were posted, the president was banned from his Twitter account for 12 hours.
The insurrection was the third MAGA-related event in the last few months as Trump-affiliated demonstrators previously clashed with counter-protesters and police in November and December.”
One of the guest speakers is talking about the narrative going back decades such as Newt Gingrich saying he wanted to make politics a blood sport (and he has). This speakers says a conscious choice was made to court the worse instincts in their supporters. The problem is once these instincts ignite, the manipulators loss control.
Jen White says: “We knew because he told us over and over.”
Rep Tim Ryan (D-OH) says (approximately): “I’m not impressed with all the Republicans jumping on the right side of history in the last 13 days of the Trump Administration. And the Republicans still riding the Trump bandwagon know better. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and a handful of others. They know better. They received the best education possible in America and still they propped up Trump’s false narrative.”
Description of episode: “In a September presidential debate, President Donald Trump told the Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with ties to white supremacy. But those comments weren’t the first time he appeared to encourage violence from his base. And on Wednesday, thousands of pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
Despite previously encouraging them to go to the Capitol, President Trump urged the mob to “go home,” though in the same statement he continued to falsely claim he won the election. And after this, some are wondering whether it’s still safe for the president, and the lawmakers who challenged the vote certification process, to stay in office for the rest of his term.”
Greg Carr, Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University, said (roughly): “They… who are they (the people who poured into the Capitol yesterday)… they are the people who see ‘their’ country slipping away… the power they use to have as a majority, as former slave owners and landowners, as people who have become use to having advantages over black and brown citizens of the United States of America. They were promised to bring all these things back… and they saw this promise slipping away… and so they went into ‘their’ house to hold state in ‘their’ country. That is who they are...” (…) “This country was founded on the enslavement of a people. What we saw today is a continuation of this struggle. … There is a moment when the black police officer is retreating up the stairs from the mob chasing him. When he finally gets up to the 4th floor and encounters several white police officers, you can see the moment when he stops and looks at them and you know he is thinking — are they with them or are they with me? He does not advance to defend himself and the capitol until he sees the white officers advancing on the insurrectionists. That moment tells you everything about what was going on yesterday.”
Dana Fisher, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland; Author, “American Resistance: From the Women’s March to the Blue Wave”, said (roughly when asked what is the difference between a protestor and insurrectionist): “Protesters expertise their right to voice their disagreement to something going on in the country, but protesters do not carry arms, invade a building of government, and call for shooting and hanging the traitors they believe have failed them. These are insurrectionists… these are domestic terrorists…“
Stay safe… remember love always finds the most inclusive, gentle way to live together in peace and harmony. It is our choice to act through love or to act through hate.
Next in The Storytelling Species Series | Part 2: The Sea of Misery:
Taking a break from the news over the weekend, I had not paid attention to the emergence of Naked Athena until I heard NPR’s Michel Martin talk with Portland NAACP President E. D. Mondainé about ongoing protests taking place there. Martin begins saying:
“Let me just go to the piece that you wrote. It’s gently worded, but it’s very tough in its message. You said that I don’t believe it’s a time for spectacle; unfortunately, spectacle is now the best way to describe Portland’s protests. Vandalizing government buildings and hurling projectiles at law enforcement draw attention. But how do these actions stop police from killing Black people? Was there a particular moment in the course of all this that made you feel this way? I mean, in your piece, you speak about the woman who’s being described as Naked Athena…”
Reality is Messy & There is Never One Simple Narrative to Explain It, Ever
I had to see Naked Athena in Portland, OR. When I found her, I did not see spectacle. I saw splendor. For centuries, women have live under lopsided male-centered, patriarchal cultural bondage. It goes on today taking many forms, but the core impulse is to control women and deny them their rights as a human being–often cruelly and violently. The same weekend as Naked Athena made her appearance in Portland, teenage girls were harassed and spit on by the Moral Police in Iran. I heard this report on the BBC and found it written up in UK The Daily Mail.
“An Iranian undercover morality agent spat at teenage girls and asked them ‘where’s your dirty owner?’ after seeing them without a hijab. In a shocking video, which has been circulating on social media, a man stops his car and gets out before hurling abuse at the youngsters.”
Think again. Reality is never as simple as we would like it to be as human beings. It never has been, nor will it ever be. But our propensity as a species to simplify reality is tremendous. It always has been, and probably always will be.
In times long past, humans used myth, folklore, and magical tales to explain complicated, perplexing, and frightening things that confronted them and challenged their survival. In my last blog, The Beautiful Gift of Outrage, I give an example of old Scottish folklore about fairies that swap out a healthy human baby and replace it with a changeling to explain why a new born infant would fail to thrive. They did not know modern medicine. They did not understand that their newborn baby was sick and needed care, not to be left out on a fairy hill to see if the fairies would bring the real child back to them. But our species has created many stories that now days sound strange and outlandish to explain the unexplainable.
And, we are still doing it today.
Untied States of Conspiracy
Frontline is airing an episode tonight titled: The United States of Conspiracy. Also, Fareed Zakaria aired a special on CNN about Conspiracy Theories; Mondaire Jones; Hillary 2016 Communications Director; Your Anecdotal Census; and Protesting During a Pandemic. Both of these episdoes explore the deep roots of misinformation entering into American culture, politics, and the rise of Trump who has long purported kooky conspiracy theories, such as the birther theory hurtled against President Barack Obama. Trump used this cockeyed theory to launch his political career (or more aptly to launch his political farce and mockery of democracy). Zakaria covers all the conspiracy theories of the past 50 years, including one of the most recent to emerge: QAnon, which is a far-right conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters. Zakaria makes the connection between believing in fairies and fairytales in times past to believing in whimsical, outlandish, bizarre conspiracy theories today. Doing so, provide simple, linear explanations to reality, especially to people who feel like they are losing control of their lives or their values or their culture.
From the Frontline report , a write up says:
“The United States of Conspiracy includes a striking sequence that illustrates how Trump adopted Jones’ claims — voicing them publicly in a way that shocked even InfoWars staffers as he ran for the highest office in the land.”
As 2015 drew to a close, then-candidate Donald Trump made an appearance that was unprecedented in the history of modern presidential campaigns.
It was on InfoWars, the hard-right outlet run by extremist conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a trafficker in false information who had exploited national tragedies from 9/11 to Newtown. And it was brokered by Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone, a frequent InfoWars guest, in a bid to win over Jones’ millions of viewers.
A new FRONTLINE documentary traces how the alliance between Jones and Trump, facilitated by Stone, would help to bring conspiracy theorist thought into the political mainstream — ushering in the current era, in which misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic has spread like the virus itself.
Everything. The spectacle is Trump and the rise of modern myths and fairytales that millions of people believe–stories that are just as strange and farfetched as fairies and changelings. Trump is taking advantage of this human fallibility to win. He got away with it in 2016, but reality is catching up with him. The Coronavirus refuses to comply to his fairytale, and his complete and utter failure to deal with it is causing him to lose in the polls. Of course, he is losing in the polls because of this. We are nearing 150,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19. Meanwhile, many European and Asian countries have successfully gotten the novel virus under control so they can reopen their economies safely and mark COVID deaths in the hundreds… not the hundreds of thousands. But, not us.
What exactly does 150,000 deaths looks like? What if all these deaths were concentrated in one geographic location? What would it look like?
It would be like losing McAllen, Mesquite, and Killeen, Tex.; Dayton, Ohio; Fullerton, Orange, Valencia, Torrance, Pomona, and Pasadena, Calif.; Syracuse, Borough Park, Astoria, and East Hampton, N.Y.; Savannah, Ga.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Naperville, Rockford, and Joliet, Ill.; Paterson, N.J.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Hollywood, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Alexandria, Va.; or Springfield, Mass. Eric A. Gordon captures this for us to imagine in a compelling article titled: 150,000 dead of coronavirus in U.S.: What monument will they have?
So Trump needs a distraction. He needs his loyal believers of his fairy tale about reality to not look at the real spectacle of this moment–his utter lack of interest and ability to deal with reality–but to believe that America is falling into the clutches of the fatal-thinking, wacky left wing democrats. So, what does he do? He co-opts the beautiful, genuine cascade of Black Lives Matter protests and marches that are sweeping across the country, and across the world, after the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white police officer who believed he could get away with murder. Well, he didn’t. Here is a map a professor created of all the protests around the world evoked by George Floyd’s death.
This is the battle Trump is fighting. He is turning a long overdo moral accounting of White Privilege into an urban war to scare the hell out of his core supporters. He and his collaborators (like Barr) are not interested in saving or protecting human lives. If so, Trump would be sending PPE and swabs to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, clinics in the 70% of the country he said not to look at when he was telling America how well we were doing in combating the coronavirus. He would be much more concerned with human life (black, brown, elderly, and everyone else) rather than abusing his power as President of the United States of America to protect a building in Portland. In the same insane compulsion to win the 2020 election, Trump is systematically and cruelly undermining all the hope and promise that the Black Lives Movement is bringing into the light of day. This means coming to terms and reckoning with everything this country has done to black and brown people–slavery, Jim Crow laws, Redlining, endemic impoverishment of black and brown people due to racism and structural inequalities putting white people first, and police brutality.
This is Trump’s War. He is making sure these changes don’t happen on his watch and that’s why his supporters need to reelect him in 2020, but what he keeps hidden to himself is that he doesn’t have an ounce of empathy for his supporters. He does not care what happens to them after he is elected. He is demonstrating this right now in more outlandish ideas about miracle cures for COVID-19 citing a doctor (just yesterday) who talks about demon sperm. He just wants to serve himself to more helpings of greed and gluttony for another four years.
Wag the Dog
Most U.S. Presidents who have gotten in trouble just before their second term are fabled to begin a war to keep in power. Trump’s war is with Americans. He is sending in federal troops (many contracted military units not trained to deal with lawful protesters) to stir up trouble precisely so he can get great photos and video footage to bolster his lopsided narrative of America falling into chaos and violence. This is the spectacle.
Naked Athena is the beautiful emergence of ancient knowledge and wisdom of dealing with men like Trump and the troops his has sent into cities that do not want them there. It is no accident she was named Naked Athena–the Goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare. These ancient Gods and Goddesses are not dead because we no longer believe in them. They live inside of us. They are part of us. They are the building blocks of our psyches that hold the energies inside each of us that move us to take action. How that action is expressed depends on the constellation of archetypes that begin to take shape when we are born and become consolidated when the ego is born at the moment of the Primal Split, as defined through Melanie Klein’s work and object relations theory. Archetypes were first described by Carl Jung. They are poorly understood by modern humans, but they hold the psychological templates of everything that we feel and do: love, fear, greed, war. If we do not pay attention to them and the balance of our inner worlds, they can get triggered and take over our minds–sometimes this is good, often it is bad. They can also emerge collectively in moments like these and quickly turn into monsters. Naked Athena placed herself between the beasts of our collective rage on both sides of the divide. She emerged at the right moment like soothing rain to calm the archetypes rising in rage against each other. That’s what the ancient myths, legends, and folklore are all about. They are stories about our own abilities to create reality or to destroy it. To me, Naked Athena is a beautiful counter force to hate and violence–in her nakedness, she is vulnerable and unadorned by trappings of modern civilization, placing her body bravely in the middle of the line of conflict. Some say this is the moment that these protests descended into spectacle. I say, it is a moment they ascended into a realm of transformation and good trouble. We must remember how to travel and navigate our inner spaces. This is where things become cloudy, inside the mind, for the body is a clear place.
Appendix of Resources
I am not going to digest all these things here, but all of them feed into my ideas about why Naked Athena is part of the Splendor of this moment rather than the Spectacle of it. White people have a lot to work out now and a lot of it is between other white people. So much has been hidden, kept secret, silently enforced. There is a reckoning going on many levels and the streams inevitably will spilt, but the force all of them are pushing back against is the spectacle of Trump, his base, and his collaborators, not naked Athena or any of the protests going on that include examples of Good Trouble and Bad Trouble, yes, reality is messy and there is not one easy, simple, all-inclusive narrative to explain any of it.
A flawed response to a global pandemic. A string of falsehoods concerning the efficacy of mail-in voting. A violent and undemocratic response to nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The president of the United States has a lot to answer for in the eyes of his critics.
Ibram X. Kendi is the author of “How to Be an Antiracist” and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He’s written a cover story for The Atlantic detailing how President Donald Trump’s racism has forced America to confront its own, especially the prejudiced systems which have allowed the oppression of minority communities in the United States.
Ed Yong is a staff writer for The Atlantic. He recently published a piece for the same magazine painstakingly detailing the numerous failures and inadequacies in the federal government’s approach to combating the coronavirus. Yong explores how the underfunding of medical resources left minority communities particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, contributing to the country’s skyrocketing death toll.
We ask both of them: Is America ready to reckon with its past? And what happens to America’s future?
This is a five-minute listen that is time well spent. One of the thing Jonah says is ‘we are going to see glorious video clips of how violent and degenerate America has become in future Trump for President ads and during the republican national convention.’
Seattle mayor calls Trump’s response to protests ‘un-American’ — Protesters and police again clashed in a number of U.S. cities over the weekend, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. President Trump has defended sending federal law enforcement to the cities, but many local officials say their presence is only exacerbating the existing unrest. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to the mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, about what she’s seeing in her city.
I found the following part of this interview particularly compelling:
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, I should point out, your critics will point to the fact that, for weeks, protesters several weeks ago had basically taken control of a few downtown city blocks.Your police chief had to go in earlier this month with heavy machinery and riot gear to clear that area. There was already concern about violence over the weekend. The police chief called it a riot on Saturday night.Do you think that the presence of federal forces could help quell these protests before they get out of control, and something similar to what happened before happens again, where protesters are able to take over some chunk of city space?
Jenny Durkan: I think that when you saw that the area on Capitol Hill that we were able to return to normal, that our police were able to go in there and clear that area with very little conflict and restore it back to a place that all the neighborhood and businesses could enjoy it.Contrast what’s going on in Portland, where, night after night after night, it is proven that what they’re doing is not working. They have not quelled anything. To the contrary, they have escalated it.So I do not believe that there’s any evidence whatsoever that any of the strategies that the president is trying to employ will lead to peace. And I don’t think he wants it to.He’s been very clear that what he is doing is targeting cities that are led by Democrats to show that there can be division and the lack of law and order, so that he can run on that as a president.That kind of political maneuvering of law enforcement really is un-American. And I think it’s dangerous for us to go down that path.
Amna Nawaz: Mayor Durkan, very briefly, you weren’t told before the current federal team that’s on the ground in Seattle was sent in. Do you have any assurance you will be told in advance of any further deployment?
Jenny Durkan: So, the assistant secretary did say he would call the chief of police and myself if the posture changed. But I know that — look, there’s one person who’s guiding the activities of this administration, and that’s the president of the United States. And so, regardless of assurances that anyone else might give me or any other local government official, we have to take the president at his word. And he keeps escalating his rhetoric, and then the behavior follows that rhetoric. And so, as a mayor of a city, I will tell you, I do need the federal government’s help. I need more testing for COVID-19. I need to make sure that, as this health emergency gets worse, that my hospitals can withstand it. I need the kids who are hurting not going to be back in school to be able to learn. That’s the kind of help we need from this federal government that we don’t get. A president should step forward and lead the nation. And, instead, he’s dividing the nation. And I think it’s a really dangerous time for America to be on this point of inflection in our history. And what — our choices today will decide what happens for generations of Americans to come.
When Trump first pulled this stunt (with Attorney General William P.Barr serving as his hedge man and is is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this very day about this despicable day of failed democracy), I published this short video blog:
“White supremacy has made recent local news, between Jeremy Christian’s murder trial in Portland, and the presence of white nationalist groups in rallies across the state. A special edition of the Oregon Historical Quarterly is out now, that reminds residents that the problem is actually rooted deep in state history.
KLCC’s Brian Bull talked to the journal’s editor, Eliza Canty-Jones. Bull asked how ingrained white supremacy is in Oregon’s settlement.”
Chris Cuomo and Difference Between Good and Bad Trouble — The CNN anchor went on to define what is “good trouble” and “bad trouble.” Cuomo echoed Lewis’ assertion that the Black Lives Matter movement was “good trouble,” but noted that the “riots” and “touching to hurt” and “destroy” was not included, suggesting that focusing more on the violence rather than the protests is “bad trouble at work.”
This is a Fox News report. I watched this broadcast when Chris Cuomo made these comments and did not come to the conclusions being made in the Fox article. But, we all do this, twist what we see and hear to fit our narratives. Trump is a master in doing this. He has a natural born instinct how people are reacting and how to twist any reality playing out in front of him to appeal to his willing supporters and collaborators
“To the American reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.”
One of the powerful things Applebaum said during this interview is that politics are just ideas that men and women form in their minds, then get together to try to implement in society, nothing more. Often these ideas have nothing to do with the reality of the people. Rather, they tend to be overly idealized and simplified ideas of how to run a civilization. For Trump, it is even more lopsided because he knows the ideas he promotes has nothing to do with reality. To him, it is a game to see how many people he can get to believe them.
The example of the old Scottish folklore about fairies swapping out a healthy human baby and replacing it with a changeling, comes from Outlander. Claire is the lead character of this series, and she would soon find out why her friend Geillis Duncan warned her not to go up the Fairy Hill. Claire did not listen. She searched for the child, but found it too late. It died from exposure. All she could do was hold it tenderly; her heart broken because she could not find it in time. Her beloved Jamie finds her, puts the baby back in the tree, and takes her home… telling her perhaps believing the real child will live forever with the fairies will bring comfort to the parents who lost their child.
In the next episode or so, we find out why Geillis warned Claire not to go up the Fairy Hill. She was not warning Claire about the fairies, but the town’s people. When Claire and Geillis get arrested and put on trial for being witches, Claire listens in horror as the mother of the child she tried to save testifies to her witchery and spells. She realizes as she listens and looks at all the town’s people crammed into the court that they are turning into an alien, broiling, in-human lump of hate and violence that seeks only one thing: To see her and Geillis burned alive. The Fairy Hill was a metaphor for the townspeople who lived in a one-sidedness that was unsustainable. The monster inside of them all had to be let out once in a while, and it was coming out now as she and Geillis were about to be killed by these gentle folk. They were they fairies, and they were turning into zaries right before her eyes–evil, mischievous, in-human things.
I pay attention when things come in threes, and so it is now with outrage. I have also been writing about Cloud Atlas recently, which uses Fyodor Dostoevsky’s often-quoted maxim derived from his book The Idiot as its super structure: ‘Beauty will save the world.’
So, let’s get after how such a feeble, fleeting, and fragile thing like beauty intersects with outrage to save the world.
Number 1: “I’m Mad As Hell”
Chris Cuomo opened his show last night with this clip from Sidney Lumet, 1976 movie: Network.
I found a fellow blogger who writes eloquently about this clip and Beale’s speech. And, I love Neil Hughes byline — Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own! Bravo! We need more unique thought in this world! I leave it to Neil Hughes beautiful written recap of the circumstances causing Howard Beale to rebel live on TV. But, I will carry over this powerful speech, which still resonates vividly still today.
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
Are you going to your window? I think this clip is an absolutely magnificent moment distilled by the writers and filmmakers of this movie from the 70s showing the beauty of being human. In our super modern world, we need such moments to keep us human.
Number 2: “Give Back the Goat!”
My new favorite series is Outlander–I don’t know how have I missed this story for so long? And so after getting my fill of the news, I switched to story, and last night I watched episode 5 of season 1. You guessed it… it’s about outrage.
Claire is the main character, and she is the outlander in this world. I will not spoil why she is if you are like me and have not read this story or watched this series. Do not read what comes next if you plan to read or watch Outlander because it will spoil all the surprises.
If you are continuing to read, Claire has proven herself as a capable healer and is taken on a road trip to help Dougal (who is the brother to the clan’s king) to collect the rents from their tenants of the land Mackenzie. While on the road she is faced with the horror of the conflict between the English and the clans (and the injustices of collecting rent from people who have practically nothing to give). While she grapples with these horrors occurring between landowner and peasants together with the growing conflict between the Scottish-highlanders and the British, she becomes keenly aware of the future bloodshed that her Scottish friends will soon face: The Jacobite rising of 1745, also known as the Forty-five Rebellion or simply the ’45. (Eye, 45, seems an ominous number throughout the course of human history).
This clip is a little cheesy, but it does a good job explaining why Claire feels outraged, which is absolutely beautiful in its purity, intensity, and passion.
My friend Jurgen, who is a brilliant blogger, sent me his blog several days ago, but I did not read it until today. He writes beautiful pieces on his site called Mach was!? (Do something!?). This one is titled: ‘A gentle reminder’. He begins this piece by saying:
“Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization’s coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas.”
He goes on to say: “It’s time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.“
Indeed it is. Jurgen writes extensively and from a point of consolidated consciousness that I find compelling about culture and civilization and we are indeed at a moment of reckoning now. He says: “My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash.” This is the very same truth expressed beautifully in Cloud Atlas when the character Adam Ewing writes in what he believes to be his final letter to his beloved wife and family summarizing everything he’s seen over the last couple of months and says:
“One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself.” (11.15.7)
And indeed this world is realized in the one where Somni-451 has been condemned to live, except she ascends consciously and learns the truth as to where her sisters (her fellow servers cloned by the corporation to cater to the banal needs of consumers who are also the prey of the corporation) are taken in Xultation. Sonmi-451 is a beautiful arch in this complex and dazzling story compelling us to examine what makes us human!
Truth and Trauma — Reality is a Gift
Truths and traumas are the common thread running throughout the three examples I have shared above. We are one human tribe and when one part of us goes a little bit rotten, or completely rotten, feeling itself entitled to rob ‘the other’ from their humanity and right to exist in space and time, it is mostly certainly WRONG and deserves our OUTRAGE!
It is entirely human to feel shock and horror triggering outrage when we encounter the grotesque wrapping of our shared human nature.
It takes courage to act on outrage, but most of us have been put to sleep or are too afraid to act on it any more, and this is another twisting of our birthright as human beings who have been granted the precious gift of consciousness. But, we are wasting this gift and turning Earth into a barren desert where life cannot survive.
What are these modern horrors that I speak of: consider the crisis in Yemen. This is entirely a manmade crisis of a more powerful group of humans destroying another less powerful group. I do not buy the narrative that these women, children, and beautiful people of Yemen deserve their fate or created these circumstances because they are vibrating on the wrong wavelength. NO! Their despair and suffering is on our hands. It is the failure of those of us who are not suffering like that to take action to mitigate and remove their source of pain. This lack of action to help ‘the other’ is what will be marked in time.
Or consider racism, the brutal enslavement of an entire race of people just because of darker skin. It is one group of people systematically and cruelly removing the humanity of another group. It is an unjust system that sanctions and allows individuals like George Floyd to be killed right before our eyes with impunity by officers of the law who are suppose to safeguard everyone’s human rights. But instead, because of the infection of racism, they have taken the lives of so many beautiful people of color who have been murdered by them under the cover of this barbaric system underpinning Western civilization, which all of us living now have been baked into.
Or consider the brutalities we allow as modern human beings to be conducted upon other living beings with whom we share this planet such as the recent revoking of a law banning hunters from blinding hibernating mother bears and their babies so the hunters can kill them easier. If these things do not strike disgust, shock, or horror inside your heart, there is a deep sleeping going on and a silent support and holding up of brutal ways of being in this world.
When one becomes conscious of injustice, brutality, and the grotesque wrapping of human nature, it deserves, in fact, demands our outrage. Without it, we are destined to wobble off the cliff of extinction as a species on this planet. This is what happens when we ignore reality by stifling our inner truths and failing to take right action to correct course.
Look around today. What do you see? Then, look inside yourself. Take your time like my friend talks about doing and really notice what is rising inside of you. What do you really feel in you now? Is now a time to be silent, to watch, and to do nothing?
I cannot answer your conscience. This belongs uniquely to you. But silence for me is not an option, nor is hiding under a Rock of Ignorance. To be clear, this rock is entirely mine. I was born under it and have carried it with me through time ever since. All of us are born into ignorance and must work steadily throughout our lives to shift through and dissolves the barriers to reality that living in groups has necessarily required of us. And yes, I still listen to the news. But, I choose my sources carefully. I agree with Jurgen…many sources of news have been co-opted by people desiring power…lots and lots of power. It gets twisted and warped into grotesque propaganda, but it appears so good to consume, which is what is intended so that it gets into your mind and sets up its workshop of ignorance manufacturing. And, news today, let’s face it, is mainly entertainment, especially social media where so many of us get our news these days, which is a little scary. So, you must choose your news wisely. I choose to listen to scientists and news sources I have grown to respect over time (e.g., PBS NewsHour). I also consume large amounts of other sources of information such as the writings of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alan Watts, and many others.
Then, I digest what I consume over long walks and bike rides in nature, by journaling, or through artistic endeavors such as drawing or making mini artistic movies of my rides. It is very important to digest what is consumed through our culture, our media, and our lives. We often forget that digesting information is just as important as digesting food. This is how we grow our individual field of consciousness and diminish the burden of our Rock of Ignorance.
Most importantly, I act on what I have consumed and digested. Consumption without action is imbalance. It risks growing so huge and lopsided inside your mind that you will surely collapse under the weight of your own ignorance. Action must be taken daily to distill, transform, and sublimate what you have ingested into your mind. Only you can do this. I believe it is possible to reach a state of consciousness where knowledge of everything, including current events, is simply known inside yourself. My journey through time leaves me far from this state, and so I must pay attention to my surrounding, digest what I consume, and then I write. This is my act of transformation. Mostly I write the story I have been working on since 2012. This is a story about the collective transformation of human consciousness after the world falls over the climate cliff. I will also act wherever I can to stand up against racism and to participate in the politics of my country, which is failing right now, badly.
Lastly, as I write this blog (which is a process of digestion of the ideas I have consumed), I realize all along I have been doing what Neil Hughes suggests: Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own!
What is uniquely your own?
Find it, claim it — it is your precious contribution to Indra’s Net. Humanity needs every jewel of consciousness we can distill and sublimate now.
There is such a thing as False Outrage. This is a twisting of basic human nature for someone else’s purposes. It feels like it is your own personal outrage, but it has been carefully crafted by a swindler, a pretender, a cheat, a Confidence Man. In a time of rapid change and growing crisis, these men emerge like roaches from the woodwork of civilization where they are normally regulated to live. But during times of upheaval, people crave to consume confidence, simple stories of their lives and their fate, and they flock to such men giving them their time and attention and unquestioning loyalty. This simple thing makes such men grow big and strong, making them look like magic men, saviors, but they are not. They are twisted and wrapped. They are dangerous. And we, the Good of Earth, are extremely vulnerable to such men and the mobs they create during times of crisis. These men create and seed False Outrage. It is very contagious. This is why each and every individual must fed their mind with good, nutritious mind food that is fully digested and then put into action. This is the only way to grow your individual field of consciousness.
I add this due to two things consumed since posting this blog yesterday.
Number 2: Seeing Black Jack Randall’s real personality — Twisted Outrage
This is Outlander again. Yes, I consume lots of stories into my mind. I suppose it is like eating dessert when I am too tired to work but not tired enough to sleep (which is a super digesting time for the mind… watch your dreams… pay attention, especially now). This episode immediately following the one before where true human outrage is so beautifully expressed by Claire, now shows the viewer a twisted soul. A man who deceives and preys upon others for fun. These sorts of people live in every century. They are master manipulators and extremely dangerous individuals for they are not stupid. In fact they know how to sharpen their mind, but they choose destruction, disaster, monstrous actions in the world. This is their masterpiece, as Black Jack Randall gruesomely reveals to Claire in this episode. I will say no more for my story delves deeply into such souls. This recap does a good job explaining what happens.
I heard this last year, and it belongs here because I believe we are all being manipulated by False Outrage. Listen to this excellent episode of Hidden Brain to learn more.
VEDANTAM: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – Julie Zimmerman checked Twitter and saw something that made her upset. It was a video filmed hundreds of miles from her home in Ohio at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN: There was this older Native American man, and these kids surrounded him and were yelling things at him and laughing at him. And they were blocking his path. He apparently was trying to, you know, walk over to the Lincoln Memorial or something like that, and they wouldn’t let him through.
VEDANTAM: The kids surrounding this man looked like 15-year-old boys. They were nearly all white. A few were making gestures that looked like tomahawk chops. Some wore hats that read Make America Great Again.
ZIMMERMAN: These kids were making fun of this guy because he was Native American because he had a drum and was chanting something unfamiliar to them. It was pretty cringeworthy.
VEDANTAM: We’re going to look at Julie’s encounter with the story in some detail because it’s revealing about how outrage works today. Like many others watching that day, Julie fixated on one boy in the video. He was standing directly in front of the Native American man staring at him. He had what looked like a smirk on his face as the older man sang.
ZIMMERMAN: His image evoked all the horrifying things Americans have done to Native Americans throughout the centuries.
VEDANTAM: As the day went on, more details emerged. The boys were students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, where Julie lives.
ZIMMERMAN: I started seeing tweets that the kids were chanting build the wall, build that wall.
The modern world has brought us many wonders. We understand reality so much better than just 200 years ago when folklore, myths, magical thinking ruled most societies. Not that there is anything wrong with myth, folklore, or magical thinking, it is only when it becomes a cage for the mind that trouble sets in, which has happened again in our modern age with the brand-new behavior (but very old instinct) of doomscrolling. Watch out. You are being imprisoned in your own mind. Don’t believe me? Consider several experts studying this phenomenon. Clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao warns that doomscrolling traps us in a “vicious cycle of negativity” that fuels our anxiety. She says, “Our minds are wired to look out for threats. The more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, the more we get sucked into them, the more anxious we get.” Not only this, all this doom is triggering massive releases of neurotransmitters that are attaching to receptors in your brain. The more you do an activity that triggers the same response, the more your brain gets wired to want more and more…it is like an addiction. Your brain actually grows (rewires itself) to be dependent on bad news and doom. Instead of harnessing your natural outrage to do good in the world, you turn it in on yourself and consume your own brain, reducing your mind’s ability for creative thought, rational thought, and the expression of kindness, compassion, and healthy emotions. You must take back your mind first, otherwise you will likely never leave your room of doom.
A postscript on Doomscrolling:
My friend, Rag Mars (pseudonym), provided a thought provoking comment to an update I posted about this blog to my friends on Facebook.
“As a German Biochemist Ph.D., in my view, it is the fast accelerating complexity and pressure [that we live in today as modern humans]. We have no way to understand the most simple things anymore. In the Supermarket, I saw a Mouse Pad [that was] imprinted with the periodic table of all chemical Elements. [Imagine that how taken for granted this knowledge is to humans today.] [Meanwhile,] the Alchemists [were rigorously trying to figure out all we know today.] [They] were convinced, Mercury is the Element that can be transmuted into Aurum [the Latin word for gold]. In Quantum Chemistry, we know [today], Hg, Mercury has 80 protons, and Aurum, Au, has 79 protons. We also know, when a proton captures an electron, it can be transmuted, converted into a neutron. When in the nucleus of Hg (Mercury), [if] one electron from outside hits a proton [inside], it will [be] converted into a neutron, hence becoming Au 79–Gold.
“The Alchemists had no way to know anything about Quantum Chemistry. So how did they use Hg to perform the transmutation to Au 79?[It remains] a mystery. Today, we have no Mysteries anymore, we know [everything, or so we think]. And we also know, economically, it makes no sense [to do this–convert Mercury into Gold this way]. But, [in this knowing] we have lost the mystery. A mysterious insight in the strange cosmos. Not knowing–and still gaining insight. This riddle puzzles me. In our hyper complexity, we could know a lot. [But,] we do not–[our lives are flowing much too] fast [and we consume way too much knowledge.] [Because of this,] we have lost All of the Ancient Mysteries and Insights [our ancestors had]. So in this view, we are much more impoverished. We may even ask, was there [ever a time of] so much mystery? [We have forgotten to leave space in our mind] as the little known [is] too [small] to fill a great and bright mind, and so an Alchemist had to search for a deeper, complex hidden world. [He did so rigorously and did not settle for simple answers, and he stumbled upon amazing things.] [What did] he find access to [within his mind]? Was there Magic [there?]–[an inner realm where he was driven to] because of [his more} simple reality? Mind boggling to me.”
“Once again you write about what I write about right now–mysterious things such as the parallels between quantum mechanicians and ancient knowledge of the Alchemists (and even further back!). I did not know about this strange link between Mercury and Gold. It is fascinating and it illuminates a little more of my own inner darkness — not that this darkness it bad, it is simply unseen.
Seeing is knowing and with knowledge we are able as human being to make different choices than what has proceeded us before. Knowledge is illumination–it is inner light (at least one form of it). Again, I veer to the story I am currently consuming Outlander to help add insight to these ideas. In this scene, Claire hears a baby crying in the forest. Her friend Geillis Duncan tells her this:
“Claire, that’s a fairy hill. That baby is no human child. That’s a changeling. When the fairies steal a human child away, they leave one of their own in its place. You know it’s a changeling because it doesn’t thrive and grow. If you leave a changeling out over night in such a place, the wee folk will come, take it back, and return the child they’ve stolen.“
Claire; however, knows different and runs up the hill to help the child, but she is too late, the child has died from exposure. She is devastated, but Jamie finds her on the hill and comforts her by saying, perhaps the belief that their child will live forever stay and happy with the fairies is a comfort to this family who placed the infant here.”
Believe as a comfort, even if it has nothing to do with reality, why do humans do this?
A couple days later, I watched a documentary about Trump and his conspiracies theories by Fareed Zakaria. After going through and showing us all the fanatical modern day conspiracies ranging from Q to Alex Jones and other fantastical conspiracies manufactured and believed by millions and millions of people in the U.S. (and around the world) is akin to believing in witchcraft and fairies and monsters from times long ago. Fareed explains this is because reality is complicated and people strongly desire to feel safe and in control of their world and their fate. Thus, if magical thinking explains why something devastating happens in a way that gives them a sense of lost control, they grab onto it, regardless of how little it has to do with reality. You can hear Fareed’s show in the link below.
Remember, you are beautiful just the way you are right now. Your inner beauty will save yourself and the ones you love, and even the world when you remember just how magnificent you are. Each and every one of us has tremendous capacity to do good in the world. This is power that is equal and opposite to the ones choosing to do bad in our beautiful world of so much complexity and life. In fact, I bet there are far more ‘Good People of Earth‘ than there are ‘Bad People of Earth‘. You spin your thread to freedom every moment of every day by the choices you make. Make them consciously.
The Logic of Rage— Neuroscientist Doug Fields was on a trip to Europe when a pickpocket stole his wallet. Doug, normally mild-mannered, became enraged — and his fury turned him into a stranger to himself. Today on Hidden Brain, we explore the secret logic of irrational anger.