Respecting Stories

Last week we looked at a dense information source, the book What’s Really Happening to Our Planet? by Tony Juniper. This week I want to dive into some very controversial territory by examining another dense information source and the phenomenon it represents; Christian fundamentalism American style.

Torchbearer is the latest film directed, produced and written by White House strategist Steve Bannon featuring Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. It is another type of information source claiming to share a number of facts. It is presenting a picture of the world in which the only thing a person really needs to know is the Bible. In the film aspersions on man without god multiply until the message is basically to be human is to be a hell creature – fallen, fallen, fallen! This narrow interpretation of Christianity embraced by fundamentalism is, in my mind, a perversion of Christianity through and through. Man does not come off looking like something so loveable god would give his only son to reveal to them his unending love for that which he had created. Man comes off looking like the devil, no, better, comes off looking like nothing so much as an unruly adolescent in need of a good beating by those in authority.

The problem with this Bible-only approach to truth is that it dismisses many of the most important insights other compassionate human beings have discovered outside the confines of religious thought over the last two thousand years. Misunderstanding the ecological crisis is the most obvious problem with this type of intellectual mono-vision from my point of view but the psychological understanding of trauma and the effects of abuse run a close second. People who wish to nourish a love of their fellow man cannot, in good conscience, ignore these modern insights. To do so is to dismiss the very spirit of revelation as it is talking to our age, to use the mythic terms from our monotheistic background. The person in front of you is alive and real, to kill them because a book tells you to is to make that book an idol. Instead of worshipping the living god, one has been seduced into necrotic worship of the dead. God is not found among the dead.

This is what I fear: the patriarchs of the bomb are invoking the patriarch in the sky, cloaking their oil procuring war plans in the most giant beat stick of them all. They are calling on a wrathful god to bring his holy beating to earth “for our own good,” as Alice Miller explained.

I appreciate the sincerity with which a fundamentalist approaches the problems of the world. Much of what seems to inspire the fundamentalist is a virtuous desire to protect their children from the fallout of a consumer culture gone over the edge, refusing to recognize any limitations on its hunger and greed. I feel in many ways more akin to them then to the shallow people of the endless party our mass media teaches us to be. I applaud their willingness to look the darkness of history in the eye and not flinch. Torchbearer includes a number of gut wrenching film clips of our historic atrocities and unspeakable cruelties. More people should remember these things more often. Still, it is traumatizing to gaze into the abyss and fundamentalists, I believe, are traumatized. These people’s sincere soul-needs are being shepherded through the topsy-turvy world of symbolisms of the highest order, those which directly concern the archetype of the Self. There is a healing potentially working its way through their love of the Christ as portrayed in the Gospels which these true believers try to nurture and discover. It is like they are so close, and yet…. Instead of that which liberates, they are under the pall of that which enslaves.

The Self archetype is not to be toyed with. Miss your shot at god and you arrive at the anti-god of the feared meaninglessness and nihilism which has inspired the misbegotten faith of the mind parasites we looked at last week. As James Hillman pointed out, if we are off just a few degrees when the projection of our path between where we really are and the foot of the cross takes place, we end up kneeling before a thief. Now there are good thieves and their are bad thieves, but they remain thieves. What they steal is life itself; these parasites are Vampires feeding on days spent serving false gods and nights spent dreaming in theologies fantastic, instead of theophanies properly imaginal. So many hours sitting in meetings, fearfully praying to invisible powers, listening to preachers, doing what you are “supposed” to do and following orders, writing checks, judging everyone not in your cult damned, talking always about your religion and little else – in so many ways the days of a life of a fundamentalist are stolen by the false infinities haunting their minds, born of the traumatic wound.

There is another way to say we should have respect for facts as facts. We say the same thing when we say we should have respect for stories as stories. That stories move us so deeply is one of the greater parts of the mystery of our being. That they do play such a central role in our ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ is simply a fact, a feature of our humanity. We have had to live with this mind a long time and have learned a thing or two about it. Replace facts with stories and the result is tragedy. Enliven facts with stories and the result is a living grace.

Fundamentalism denies the reality of the psyche. It denies the realm of symbol, insisting on literal interpretations driven by a fear that if it something was not historically real, it has no reality at all. In this they are mistaken. Carl Jung once commented that all of his work was to try and convince modern man of the reality of the psyche. There is very much a reality involved in these mythologies that guide civilizations but it is not the reality of the Calculus and molecules. It involves the psychological and philosophical underpinnings of how we derive meaning from perception and love from flesh. The problem the fundamentalist has is that they cannot trust the symbol to point beyond itself. For them everything is literal; wheat cannot be transmuted into flesh, the grape and the wine it gives us to make our hearts glad cannot be transmuted into the emotions of our fiery blood, they do not hear the Word in our words of kindness and comfort we give freely to one another. Yet this is just what happens on the earth. The fundamentalist has a problem of faith, they lack its “fundamentals” and so are unable to see the sacramental nature of our sacred world. They cannot bring themselves to believe in the miracle, existence as it is, nor that at its fundamental root this creation is good. They are instead driven to seek magic and miracles, not as symbols but as real events, to prove existence is not as it is. They are the great doubters among us, making themselves over as true believers in reaction formations. Their wounds keep them away from the healthy faith in an intelligent creator and good creation that enlivens compassionate and wise actions undertaken with a cheerful heart out in the real world just as it is. They cannot forgive god for including death in the way of life.

The symbol of the crucifixion captures the sorrows of the world like no other. Here goodness is tortured by Empire: that which is compassion is scorned as weak by those blind to the fact that this is god among us. As they kill they triumph for a day, but in doing their deed of devilry they have also released the spirit of the Christ. There is nothing they can do about that. Everywhere eyes are opened and the poor are given the good news as the dark deeds of devilry expose the emperor’s nakedness. The alpha males are brought to answer to the voice of thunder, their ego fortress shattered in a confrontation with the real power that runs the cosmos. On that same cross the poor and suffering are comforted by the voice of god who they find not in the thunder but in the still small voice, the voice of conscience. At that moment of Christ’s death the veils of the temples were torn and the mysteries openly proclaimed to all the world. This is just what Clement of Alexandria proclaimed so long ago in his Exhortation to the Greeks, that Christianity was the public revelation (exposure?) of the heart of the pagan mystery religions. Fundamentalists are a return to the pre-Christian mystagogue and a Gnostic reading of creation as the work of a demented god. Christian fundamentalism is a misunderstanding and misuse of our own Western tradition, pagan and Orthodox.

The truly faithful are to live in “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world”, as Joseph Campbell once put it. This is what the grace in our myth is there to assist us with, for this is hard. It is truly an ongoing challenge to lean towards the good in a world where life feeds on life and Empires so often seem to crush all that is good in the world. (Ring any bells?) This learning to live in “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world” is a challenge worthy of human beings with our many skills and abilities. When the symbolism of the human imagination is working properly so that facts are facts and stories are stories, this is the result. A deep joy wells up from the depths of our consciousness, unassailable by the tides of time. The Vajra diamond, or Kant’s transcendental, or the image of god in man, whatever the metaphor – that which they point to cannot be stained by human folly for we do not create ourselves and this bliss pours forth pure out of that mysterious emptiness from which the next moment comes. This deep joy is a reflection of that which we are building up in our characters over a whole life time of choices and there is no short cut to getting there, no magic words that suddenly make everything over into what it is not. This is the great insight seen in the moment of repentance; that what you do matters, what you say less so. This Self is the over arching archetypal reality of who and what we are as unique individuals, which is created and expressed through what we do with ourselves and with others during that whole lifetime. We never see this Self in its totality, yet we are never separated from it either as long as we live. This Self will weave its thread into the interdependent fabric of earth life whether the ego cooperates with the process or not, learns to embrace its mortality and human limitations, or not. Though rooted in ignorance vs. wisdom instead of good vs. evil, the end result is no different in the East or the West: be careful of those crying Lord, Lord.

“Go ahead and cheat your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend,
do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day
and on the bloody morning after, one tin soldier rides away.”
One Tin Soldier, The Original Caste

 

Shattered Respect

We should never lose an abiding respect for our own awareness, it is equal to any there has ever been. From a recognition of this equality a wholly natural ethic arises. Awareness in the universe is like the contained in a container. This contained and its container consists of an infinity of interdependent interactions, an infinity ceaselessly emerging from emptiness, an infinity like nested dolls. This is not like the fake infinity of mirrors reflecting one another, or words that mean nothing endlessly bouncing off the walls of our media echo chamber. This is an infinity of emergence in an open universe, meaningful emergence – we walk in a sacred world. The world we touch, see, taste, hear, smell and feel includes real boundaries around the right of we who exist, to exist as we exist. Self defensive aggression is the appropriate response to anything that would violate these boundaries. It is, quite simply, an evolutionary imperative to protect these life boundaries from the death dealing that threatens it.

One of the ways these boundaries are being protected are in the expose’s of the techniques of mind exploitation coming to light in our day. The neuroscience research into the role of trauma is another reflection of a new appreciation of the importance of these boundaries. I like to believe history’s bully, the enslaving pyramid builders, just might have finally made the mistake all bullies make eventually. They messed with someone who was stronger than they were. In this case it is the children who are proving to be stronger than the traumatic events of their upbringing.

Derek Jensen’s work is a good example of a bully taking on a child that proved to be much stronger than he. So are examples of those who have survived cult attacks and lived to tell the tale. In children such as Luna Lindsey, author of Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control, we see the same dynamic at play, the same awakening. The old enchantments are not working as well as they once were. Exposes like this would have not have been possible a decade or so ago. Not only is our understanding growing, but the appeal of the BS seems to be declining. It could well be that the very real threat to the real, molecular world which ecology reveals is taking the shine off many of the sadist’s convoluted justifications. The idols of our twilight, as Nietzsche warned us, are deafening in their clanging hollowness.

The poison of fundamentalism itself is coming to light. We have learned about the cycle by which abused kids become abusing parents creating abusing kids, how the panic instilled in the nervous system by trauma leads to the flashbacks and nightmares of PTSD, we have captured the neuroplasticity of emotional circuits becoming fixed when subject to imprinting and understand how such fixities are dissolved, we understand the mechanics of re-enactment of trauma (including war) and the projections and transferences involved, and the list could go on. We know what we do to one another when we allow violence and fear to dominate our lives.

And now we are learning what we do to the earth when we allow this domination by violence and fear to rule our societies. Allowing the alpha males to seek giantism has brought us to the brink of nuclear war and ecological overshoot and collapse. The age of war bands would normally follow where we are today in the cycles of history. I have to wonder about this new thing though, this shadow of our abuse staining our headlines yet also understood more clearly than ever. Our species has understood itself with a transparency that was not here before. The children are arriving crowned, conquering our hearts. Because their eyes see and respect the eyes of the woman and the child, the spider and the crow, they cannot respect what they see in the eyes of the alpha male that would violate the inviolate boundary. They see in those eyes that demonic hunger that seeks only the rape of the body or the mind of the innocent. A hunger that needs to take life after extended moments of suffering in excruciating tortures. An insatiable hunger.

The bully knows this. He knows that once the victimized women and children lose respect for him, there is nothing he can do to force it back into them. They can be made to fear him and pretend to respect his dictates but this is not the same. Once, as David Bowie sang, one knows one knows one knows, there is no turning back. Trauma shatters things that cannot be repaired. This is its tragedy. This, I suggest, is what more and more the children are coming to see in our eyes. They are waking to the subservience we have been willing to pay the pyramid makers. Now that the voices of the unborn have become a howl bearing down on us all, it is hard to not feel haunted and condemned in that glance. There is no helping it. There is a real choice to be made about how you are going to live your life and to what you are going to give your allegiance. Depending on how you choose to make that choice the reflection of yourself you see in another’s eyes will be one of beauty, a gift of the sacred world, or one of rage.

Shattered respect – once gone, its gone. The abusive father, mother or leader, once clearly seen as such, never again get the love and respect they were once offered when naivety and innocence ruled the victim’s mind. Once this disillusionment happens, an escalation of violence on the part of the abuser is never able to get that love and respect back, though that seems to be the way people react when they see the shattering has happened. A person can, perhaps, re-earn love and respect over time but that would require personal transformation on their part. It happens, but not often. Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Knowing what is honorable among us, and what is dishonorable, it is not hard to live a noble life. The difficulty is that the honorable cannot be seen as long as our eyes are glued to the shiny things narcissistically seducing us. Consumerism tries to stamp us into being something we are not; ruthless competitors after status and power, red in tooth and claw, only kept from tearing one another to bits by strong law and order. We have learned to see in the human being what the economic and production systems of hyper-capitalism see when they look in the mirror. They have usurped their limited liability role to become the template by which we are supposed to view all of existence. Some marketing scheme.

The justifications for authority are crumbling. With the psychological insights such as those just mentioned dawning world wide, the alpha male’s appeal to the divine right of kings, the mystical mumbo jumbo supposedly making right of their might, is losing its ability to fool as many people as it once did. Instead of the dictator looking archetypally luminous, the hero of the people and savior of order from the teeth of chaos, these mass murders begin to look simply and honestly pathetic. And once you know you know you know… It has become evident that psychologically twisted individuals are driven to enslave others and hurt them cruelly anyway they can in order to try and satisfy some inner insatiable hunger for recognition and control over their world. It is up to us as a society to decide what role we will allow these individuals to play in shaping our ideas, institutions and customs.

We know where the great evil lies. After the death camps, after Eichman, there can be no doubt. It is that which allows an individual to shirk their moral duty under the banner of “just following orders.” That is what the banality of evil taught us. So we should do everything we can to encourage those traits that intelligently question orders. We need to support those things that encourages an individual to stand up for common human decency when all around them mobs are marching to a different tune. The greatest danger in massively industrialized societies is how quickly they can be turned into death dealing machines. They do this when war material becomes the be all and end all of a country’s reason for producing anything at all. Coal and pork, steel and children, potatoes and iron are all fed into the war making processes when, when what happens? When a monster takes the reigns and everyone else just follows orders, sir.

Today if a leader is not talking about adjusting the human footprint into a smaller size by using less of the earth’s resources, that leader is simply not leading. That leader is a spokesman for the giant Homo Colossus. There is no rational argument that stands up to critical examination that can justify any other conclusion, given the existing state of ecological knowledge and crisis.

The question of humankind’s ability to adjust to the constraints of the future with any kind of dignity intact is intimately related to what does or does not happen on the war front in this coming century. This, in turn, is related to questions of authority, specifically an individual’s relations to those claiming authority over them. Today our children are indentured servants, if not slaves, to the needs of Homo Colossus. Those currently doubling down on increased economic growth and its concomitant carbon fuel use are quite actively and consciously attacking our children, perhaps torturing them. They tell us it is sad and they are sorry but the earth just does not provide enough for everyone and this is how it has to be. This, too, is another lie the children are waking up to.

The Eyes Have It

How does one honor someone? Not place them on a pedestal, nor cow-tow to an image on which we are projecting our own needs, but finding the actual individual person amidst the incidents of their lives? We honor them when we find something we want to affirm about who they are. What does this mean? What is this something over and above the events that shape our day to day lives?

Some have called it style, the way in which you approach doing whatever it is you are doing. There is a rich tradition of developing this sort of sensitivity to one’s actions. The delicacy by which a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony brings this day’s drinking into the history of all the teas ever drank from the particular tea pot being used is a good example of an attention to individual style being expressed within an inherited, traditional form. The whole reason it is considered a Zen practice is in how drinking mindfully concentrates the mind on the moment by moment unfolding. There is a type of infinite play of containers and contained; these particular people sharing this particular good tea, while the seasons are in just such a point on their circular journey, and humanity writes its history in just this exact point on its meandering way. And we pour the tea, and share it, and it is good.

What makes the moments titillate with awareness in such practices? A deep sensitivity to the interplay of personal and impersonal. And what nourishes this? Respecting the other being with which you are sharing this exquisite moment. A moment never to be repeated. Aware of their awareness, aware of their Self; that something that shines over a whole lifetime but cannot be found in any particular event within it. This Self shows most clearly in the personality or individuality of a sentient being. When we see it rightly, what we see is beauty. It is a breath of the sacred world.

Consider, among all the sentient beings, our favorite, other humans. How someone moves their body, how they hold their head and shoulders tells us of a person’s story. The sound of a person’s voice in the chest, head and in the air all carve a portrait of a being’s unique profile into the atmosphere. In the eyes of each of us their dwells the magic spark of the watcher who has watched the unfolding of this DNA package in all its continuity from infancy and childhood to this year, whatever it may be; 10, 23, 78. In fact what you are apprehending is a never-to-be-repeated in all the history of the universe uniqueness born of fate and circumstance being confronted continually by this mysterious choice maker.

In those choices a Self if expressed. It is not the work of the ego, the choice making is much more all encompassing than that. Schopenhauer’s Will is closer to what actually seems to be the case. The choices that have carved the character being expressed in each moment are a cumulative history of interaction between the needs of the container and the needs of the contained. There are scars all around, this is a world of sorrow, but there are never more scars than skin, so to speak. The gnarled oak is beautiful too, in its own way.

We want to hold the contained responsible. When violence mars our world it is right to hold those responsible responsible. Still, we recognize that the person who committed the reprehensible action is as much a product of this Will as anyone. Particularly now with our insights into neuroscience and the biology of violence it is becoming much more difficult to maintain clear cut distinctions when attempting to assign ultimate guilt. We are beginning to recognize that in addition to the free choice of the individual there are constraints and restrictions placed on the ability of a person to exercise it. People can be made to play out other people’s needs, seek other people’s goals, and eventually carry out other people’s dirty work. Then we could say the individual has been manipulated into serving the needs of the container instead of the contained. They have been enslaved by constraints placed on the expression of their individuality.

These constraints can come from external or internal sources. Externally violence coupled with emotional cruelty breaks the will, as when a prisoner breaks under the administrations of their torturer. Internally the psyche can have the same jailer injected into itself through the use of fear and terror. Psychology in its therapeutic mode tries to make sense of these internal torturers in order to help those whose lives have become dominated by them. For such individuals it is as if an archetypal numinosity holds the ego under its spell. They are enchanted and entranced by gazing at the shiny thing that has captured their allegiance.

These shiny things are fundamentalisms, often religious though not always, which exploit the vulnerability of our wounds. They can be recognized by a type of false infinity that mesmerizes the brain like Mowgli in the coils of Kaa in Kiping’s The Jungle Book. The true believer is possessed by a set of self-referential ideas that never lead beyond themselves. While the ego is captured in the spell of its righteousness, all around the person’s life events become more and more disharmonious. The result is less like breaking a person’s will than obscuring it beyond their ability to recover it. The freedom of the choice maker has been swallowed up by the needs of the holy book and the holy institution it speaks for. Such people robotically carry out the needs of their institutions even when they trespass on the dignity of others and deny them any respect. “I was just following orders.” Religious, political, and economic fundamentalisms all work the same way.

It is our inability to even begin to question if an alternative to consumerism can be seriously considered, when ecologists tell us it is imperative for our survival, that strongly suggests our society is in the grip of a fundamentalism. The giantism of Homo Colossus is our shiny thing. We are worshiping an idol, to use the old fashion way of saying things, and in doing so have lost the liberty of our spirits. Under the harsh administrations of the idol god – over work, constant fear – it is hard for the individual to be heard or seen. It is hard for the individual to be heard or seen by others or by themselves. It is hard to express our style if we do not know who we are. The mass market floods the individual mind with the mass mind, sweeping up all in its path. My dance needs to imitate whatever is hottest this year, my hairdo, my car, my my my…

We have lost the knack of seeing the beauty of the individual. No, you say? Look at all the movie stars and music stars, never have we celebrated the individual more! But these are all actors. Though the magic of their individuality is there, it is the role they play we encounter when we encounter those that are, as we say, bigger than life. In their archetypal roles they too become shiny things. The knack of seeing the beauty of the individual we are losing as a culture is the one that recognizes it in the real flesh and blood individuals we encounter along our way everyday. We no longer expect to be fascinated by these everyday encounters. We reserve our perceptions of beauty for the fake personas designed for our  screens and headphones who have taken residence in our pornified or Disneyfied imaginations. The real people around us suffer from our lack of kindness and attention as we respond to them as if they too were just playing roles or acting as stage props. We do this so easily with people these days, with all sentient beings really. Each and every one are carving their beautiful story into the interdependent moment. What will it take for us to once again have eyes that respect what they see when they see another’s eyes?

Living beings are not simple creatures.

Fighting Phobias

“But the truth that increasingly penetrates our consciousness is that everything else – including even nature – is a ‘paper tiger’ in the jungle of nuclear destructiveness.
Destroying most or all of human life is, to say the least, an extreme transgression. But to destroy nature itself in the process is a still further transgression around which we experience a quality of dread, hidden guilt, and nothingness – these emotions frequently amorphous and beyond our grasp, but on the order of ultimate deadly sin.”
Robert Jay Lifton, Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism

“But US envoy Nikki Haley said national security required nuclear arms because of ‘bad actors’ who could not be trusted.
‘There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic,’ she told reporters.
‘Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?'”
World nuclear ban ‘not realistic’, says US ambassador to UN, BBC News

 

The United States fears North Korea? Really?

I am a peace advocate, though I am willing to admit there are evil’s in history which must be put down by people of good will. I am not so willing to admit that these so-called “just war” events are always as clear cut, nor as common, as many of our military and political leaders have often tried to convince us they are. The German concentration camps leave no doubt that the evil involved in WWII was an industrialized assault on the dignity of man. These, however, were not the only death camps. We also need to bear in mind that the Russian and Chinese communist revolutions killed tens of millions of people too. Hitler’s threat to the peace was selected as a viable military target, while these other atrocities were not. Why that was so involves many issues of empire, money and history. So while I am willing to admit there are evil’s in history which must be put down, simple black and white ethics fail to capture all that is important for us to understand. This remains the case even in these examples of the most egregious of Homo Colossus’ assaults (to date) against our common humanity.

My friends, we are living in crazy times. Our time is the point of choice between the past and the future. It is born of a recent past filled with frightening horrors that witness to how wicked we can behave, and born of a future in which war and economic collapse seems almost all but certain. When you care enough to want to really know what is going on there is no escaping the need to confront the issue of nuclear war.

There are so many mental traps waiting for those willing to think about nuclear weapons. When the imagination tries to visualize the world after a massive nuclear exchange it is all too easy to turn the living earth into a dead moonscape. It avoids our needed ethical responsibility as creators of these weapons to imagine the painful reality of a wounded earth turned nightmare for those who survive the thermonuclear war our countries are preparing for. This is, in fact, what lies in wait for our children. It is not the moonscape of our apocalyptic fantasies swept clean of flesh and “purified” by the “holy” fires from the contamination of our human touch. No, let us at least have the courage to imagine the real. This is not a game. What lies in wait is a broken, bloody burning permeated inside and out with poisons.

Where do all these threads lead? How did we get here? If we cannot solve our problem with the same thinking that created it, what is that thinking we must abandon?

Anti-nuclear activists have lived with the soul crushing awareness of man’s willingness to pursue his violence to such ignoble ends as these for decades. Some found hope in what has often been spoken of as a new evolution of mankind’s awareness, a great turning that will come when the hundredth monkey finally learns something new. This question of social evolution is an important one, but we need to be wary of magical thinking. There is an almost overwhelming temptation to couch thoughts about our development and deployment of thermonuclear weapons in terms less horrifying than what is really real about it all.

Unquestionably cultural evolution has taken a unique turn under Homo Colossus, one which is having a profound effect on our psyches as well. Contemplate just the role global communications has had in shrinking the planet’s boundaries within your mind’s eye. It is having a profound effect on all of us for how we view the planet and our place within its history. This is a real example of a new awareness, a result of the changing technological environment’s psychological impact within the subjectivity of billons of human beings. Placing hope in this process is not without some evidence, is not just pixie dust. People of goodwill everywhere are working to make these kinds of changes happen but it does not follow that the dawning of the Age of Aquarius is going to be one of sweetness and light. It does not follow that societies will wake up and overcome the temptations to violence that litters our brutal past, and this time threatens, literally, more than we can even imagine in our future.

On the other hand, some such dawning of a real culturally evolutionary insight into the human predicament just might be possible if we set the bar low enough. There seems to be a single habit we social primates are going to need to overcome if we are going to learn anything of lasting importance from these troubled times. We just might learn to stop bowing down to the alpha male. The warrior need not take the place of the wise man as the chief of our tribes.

Ecology teaches us the human race is in overshoot: our population cannot be supplied with its needs from the materials, flesh and chemical, available on this planet as long as the lifestyles of the over-developed world continue. In the past such ethical pronouncements were couched in terms of moral absolutes backed up by religious threats and promises. Ecology offers a wholly different perspective. It points out that yeast also overshoot, given the chance. From the eyes of ecology we human beings are not that much different in this respect. Oil was the fuel source with which we exceeded the limits of sustainability. That is just the way it is, like a river or a mountain. A bit closer to our branch of the evolutionary bush than yeast are the primates. The study of social primates has created a wealth of insight into how their societies are organized around the alpha male: the biggest, baddest fighter asshole of the whole tribe. Human history offers an embarrassingly rich evidence set that in this too, we Homo Sapiens are not very different than other living things on this planet.

I would like to suggest that this particular habit has outlasted its adaptive value. That it just might be the point of self reflexive consciousness to recognize that subjectivity cannot be owned by anyone. The value of every life – poor, orphan, homeless, penniless and powerless – is equal to your own.

In the home of the male chauvinist patriarch, the father owns the women and children. He retains the right to beat them, killing them if need be. The home and all property rightly belongs to him. His enslaved wife and children are tokens, trophies, who only obtain a meaningful existence to the degree that they serve his needs. Judicious rape and violence inflicted on his wife and children keep his reign of terror intact. Though this description used a man, the same dynamics of wicked domination can be played against the weak by a woman as well, though in this case emotional manipulation tends to take the place of overt physical violence. This is the beast of a man, the devil inside.

It is an interesting question to what degree the population of any society can recognize the repressed needs for revenge against the male chauvinist patriarch it is projecting on its asshole-as-leader leaders. Did the revolutionary hero Chairman Mao become a monster to those who followed his Red Book when his actions became more and more despotic? Did the people of Germany in WWII grow disillusioned with Hitler as his derangement became more obvious, or only when the country began to lose its military encounters?

We need to become more skilled in imagining the real.

Climate change will only be addressed when we stop burning fossil fuels. The fossil fuel companies are the largest on earth and do not want that to happen. The unsustainable paradigm of endless economic growth will only be addressed when we stop the technology of fractional reserve banking. The baking-insurance companies are the next largest on earth and do not want that to happen. The need to arm ourselves in the dance of death we call mutually assured destruction will only ever change when the populations of nations refuse to be cowards before the bullies that claim the right to dispense with our existence. The military industrial complex is the largest technological investment in infrastructure, man power and mind power on the planet. By far. It fears only this. There is simply no way any type of violent insurrection against the masters of violence, the state, will ever succeed in anything other than installing a new despot. Change, real change proportionate to the threats our abusers are laying on us, will only come one person at a time.

One person at a time, in their own minds, takes their seat. They renew their roots in the loamy soil from which they come and take comfort that they are watched over by the stars. Try as they might these so-called great men of empire building cannot spoil the very ground with their sickness, nor can their ignorance and terror reach far enough to stain the heavenly hosts with their oily discontent. There is an awful lot of spin, and lies, and fears to overcome to clear the way to reconnecting with our birthrights in the soil and stars. The global psychological experiment of mass media imagery (dreaming with our eyes open) has, among other things, managed to anchor phobias around the end of the world in our bodies. When we learn to sit still with a contemplative practice we encounter them. It will always be this way. The question for us today is whether or not we will admit the way our over-developed societies’ traumatization techniques work to maintain a fear filled population that is willing to allow its leaders to pursue death dealing and the maximization of suffering in our name – for our own good, of course – or otherwise.

One person at a time, in their own minds, takes their seat. They learn the bully is not their creator, that the power to destroy and kill does not also bestow the power to give and nurture life. They learn that though such people claim the right to dispense with your existence as it suits them, these people have no god-given right to do so. They learn the bully is not even right about how the world works, for the bully is blind to compassion. This blinds them to the value of subjectivity expressed in the individual, the very ground from which a meaningful human life can be built. Alone in their towers, the despot can trust no-one. It is a truly pathetic way to be a human being, unskilled in the extreme.

As long as the phobia triggers still work to create panic within you whenever you turn your attention to the man behind the curtain (the ecology crisis and the nuclear threat holding your children hostage), you are destined to remain their puppet. As Sheldon Kopp taught, when you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him; there are no heroes; Superman is not going to save us from ourselves. That’s the final revelation of all those who would use god or so-called supernatural power to justify their lording over others. There is no such god. In that psychologically twisted need there are only humans, bewitching themselves.

Taking Stock

Last week we crossed the threshold. That post discussed the out of body experience as one that is associated with early childhood trauma. In these cases the emotional reactions within the physiology of the victim are so extreme that the evolutionary survival imperative takes over. The result is that the conscious point of view is taken to a safer place, an altered state, where some form of ego continuity can occur. Once the “spirit” leaves the “body” there is nothing more. That’s it. That is as far as we can go, there is nothing further in this direction that human beings can know with certainty.

This does not stop authoritarian true believers from insisting that their particular brand of fanaticism has pierced the veil, mastered the threshold and now offer their followers immortality. There is no end to the cults willing to anchor phobias in people’s bodies to enslave the hearts and minds of the gullible. Though it is hard to even comprehend for many people, the truth of the matter seems to be that these institutional “spirits” just do not care about the individual. What they need is another number to grow their ranks, another replaceable cog to provide them a little more profit be it through tithing, taxes or consumer purchases. Indeed, as so many of our social critics have pointed out, in the age of mass man the most endangered species is the honest, compassionate individual. There is just no edge in that. There is no way to twist that into something that will always put you out on top.

Compassion understands it is not all about me; that I do not always need to be first and come out on top. It has eyes large enough to notice that what is seen out there, beyond my skin, is also real. Further, in looking beyond one’s own needs and desires, we encounter a whole world full of hurt.

There are any number of ways a person might organize their thinking about the hurt that they encounter. I have been suggesting, for a little over two and half years now, that ecology will prove to be the umbrella under which all the lesser abuses can be gathered. And now we have crossed the threshold. The next post is going to talk about things that many readers may not be psychologically prepared for. It is going to talk about nuclear war and what it means when one dares to bring feeling and subjectivity to the subject.

Before going there though, I thought it best to take a moment to take stock of where we are, where we have come from, and a bit about where we are going with this whole mindful ecology project. Since its inception I have had a broad outline of what it was I hoped to share. For a number of my readers who have been with me since the early days it probably did not escape notice that this project was being structured along the lines of a three act play, or an initiation if you prefer. Initiation; now there is a word with all kinds of associations and no clear definition. I use it to refer to any structured teaching modality designed to cause lifestyle changes in those who undertake it. Which is, of course, exactly what mindful ecology is all about. First let’s get right in our hearts, then what we should do as individuals in our own lives about the insanity of our un-sustainability will take care of itself.

The first act, or first degree if you will, was the preparatory material covered in the first year of posts. They covered the basics of the ecological view which is summarized in the concepts of Homo Colossus and die off. The basics of a Buddhist point of view, reasoning, compassion and a contemplative practice were shared as a means for integrating what the mind knows about our ecological predicament into our hearts. In this way we become aware of how our bodies and emotions are also involved. Just as in any good story the main characters were introduced in the first act and the conflict introduced. We had a graduation on the one year anniversary.

Without conflict there can be no good story. The second year took us into an exploration of the forces in play in our society, and in our individual psychologies, which have allowed the manufacture of Homo Colossus to proceed. This was a year of posts dealing with some of the darker aspects of our lives in the over-developed nations. If the first year could be characterized as intellectually information rich, the second was about the emotional richness of our biological being. Understanding the evolutionary role of emotions became the foundation for wide ranging discussions of violence. It started with physical violence as it is studied in killology. It used the news, particularly of school shootings and attacks, to try and remain real to the effect these things are having on people’s lives; particularly on the lives of our children. The discussion of violence then expanded to include not just physical abuse but also mental, emotional, psychological and “spiritual” abuse as well. This of necessity included a whistle stop tour of some of the myths and motifs of western religion, again, with an emphasis on the role the child plays in all this.

Part of that year’s discussion included an introduction to Jungian analysis of symbolism. His conception of the archetypes give us a way to talk about items found in the basement of the mind. It proves useful for individuals but also for a type of psycho-historical analysis. What haunts the modern mind? The apocalyptic end of the world we seem powerless to prevent. Melting ice caps and mushroom clouds haunt our dreams. I suggested we in the over-developed world were writing ourselves into the apocalyptic script as the villain of the story. The idea of Babylonian Capitalism was meant to capture that idea. I wrote:

“Ecologically oriented as I am I cannot help but point out a few details I think are telling. It is my opinion that in general we human beings are not nearly as unconscious as we let on. We understand a lot more about our existential situation than we dare to admit within the very limited confines of our everyday waking consciousness. One of the ways I see this manifesting is in the care with which we have crafted the neoliberal globalization message to fit so well with the apocalyptic symbolism. Here in the basement of the mind… We have turned to the dark side to receive our revelation.”

The image of Babylon trading with all the nations captures the economics of hyper-globalization in our time rather well, don’t you think? Babylon falls in the story. If we learn from our myths we can avoid meeting on the fields of Armageddon, the western cremation ground:

“Here is my two cents about what the story in the Book of Revelation means; it’s like an inside view of the resurrected life, life beyond robots. It is a rather simple message really, involving the mystery of ever-present time: The war is over – the good guys won. The Apocalypse has been cancelled.”

That was not quite the whole truth as I perceive it. There is an element of postponing that day of reckoning by whole heartedly devoting oneself to the cause of life in the fight against all that would enslave it and destroy it. We will be getting to that soon now.

That second year ended with an examination of that which we moderns fear more than anything else in the world; the vulnerability involved in human kindness. Instead of a graduation, its end was marked by the only Wednesday post to go missing. I played hooky but asked my readers to consider the David Bowie song Five Years.

The third year introduced the idea that as a society we have known we were on an un-sustainable trajectory since, at least, the release of MIT’s Limit’s to Growth study in the 1970s. Proceeding then on this assumption, the posts of the last six months or so have been exploring the ramifications. Each essay was written both to process the times through my own body-mind, and to hopefully share some insight into what is happening to us politically and socially so that others might act with a bit more understanding when their own times get tough.

In Vajriana Buddhism there are said to be mother tantras and father tantras. In Western psychotherapy early childhood relationships with one’s parents are said to be the source of our neurosis and psychosis. The role of parents, and specifically parental unkindness, provided our entry way into this third year’s discussions. Child abuse was teased out of the cob-web filled shadowy corner it normally hides in within our cultural conversations. A number of posts have discussed how such abuse affects human beings, and how those human beings in turn carry that abuse forward. By my way of thinking, the most important development in the psychological sciences is the new appreciation of the role trauma plays in our lives. Freud could not believe it when most all the patients coming to him were talking about their sex abuse as children. In his Victorian mindset that just was unthinkable and so his brave explorations of the unconscious were soon couched in terms of Oedipus complexes and a whole host of alternative explanations for what was going on in his patients. Jung, Alder, Fromm, Maslow, and many others, while providing important insights into the psyche, all failed to place the act of traumatizing abuse front and center in their theorizing. It is only in the last decade or two that those who seek to heal the mind have called a spade a spade.

But now, with last week’s post, that avenue of mindful ecological contemplations came to its final point. As mentioned, what more is there to rationally say once someone has been so terrified and hurt that their own “spirit” leaves their “body”? Now we are going to turn our attention to the needs outside of our own. We are going to begin a whole new level of engagement with our times. Not all people should go with us there right now. If you are very new to this site and this work you might want to consider going through the whole process first. All along I have spoke about how we should be training to become skilled at triage. This image is meant to viscerally convey the steely-will coupled with courage lead by the heart which I think we need to deal with the darkness of our times. The image is one of a bloody battlefield in which emergency medical procedures, of both body and mind, are being offered to the wounded. It is triage because not all the wounded are going to be people, or animals, we can save. Hard as that is.

If you are new to this site and this work, now that you see its structure, consider giving yourself a few months, if not years, to just live with your ecological knowledge. Remaining mindful of ecology is the path; it is meant to be the gentle touch of compassion for our frightened hearts. Once that pathway of deep self-acceptance and self-comfort has been established, a person becomes more capable of handling larger fears and terrors; living with ambiguity and the unknown become much more life supporting than life threatening. This gives us the courage to admit to ourselves what we do know clearly, what is not unknown to us. All along we are to be strengthening ourselves by the application of wise compassion. When it comes to this kind of work, going too slow is just right. On the other hand, going is necessary. Going is key. Going On is what we each need to do. We should not be satisfied with anything less than taking our seat, becoming unshakably grounded in our own truth, our own understanding of what is real.

That means we do not permanently run from any irrational fear which our psychological or biological inheritances have left us prone to suffer from. Life should be lived with gusto, with a joy at the preciousness of the opportunity. It does not last forever you know. Never forget that the business of living is living. If self-destructive elements are getting the upper hand in your life STOP. Stop the additional work or self-therapy, stop the ecological studies, stop meditating and contemplating, stop until your feet are on the ground and you are again as clear as you can be that your first and foremost obligation is to your own long term well-being. Care for your most intimate connection with the earth – your own being. So much of this work is doing by not doing. That is, in fact, the hardest lesson of all. It is where the ego meets the Self.

Maturity recognizes that there is nothing I can do today that will solve all my problems or the world’s. What we are dealing with individually are issues which nothing short of a whole lifetime will ever fully address. We need to give ourselves a break about being just exactly where we are today, with our limited ability to do just a little better than yesterday. The path to happiness might seem long but placing ourselves firmly on it requires no more than that today, we are just a touch less ignorant and cruel than we were yesterday. With each choice we learn to build our characters with actions taken in which we can respect ourselves.

We need to learn to welcome tomorrow. It brings us another opportunity to both work and celebrate. Tomorrow, of course, is just what all people alive on earth right now are not sure of. The bomb has been in the basement of our mind for a long time now. The ecological crisis spelling the end of our un-sustainable ways has been there too, not as long perhaps, but all the more devastating when we consider one detail. When Robert Lifton interviewed survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a common thread was how much it hurt knowing that the suffering that had been inflicted on them was man made. They were not suffering an ‘act of god’ as we say, but the deliberate, planned cruelty of other human beings. Today our ecological science has collected sufficient evidence that victims of horrifying circumstances are no longer able to make this ancient distinction. For us, already the ‘act of nature’ and the acts of Exxon are not so clearly distinguishable. What happens to our species when the violent acts of nature might also be violent acts of man against man?

For those who are ready to proceed with the rest of this third year of mindful ecology I have another contemplative exercise to suggest in preparation. Not that it bears directly on the subject of nuclear war, but it bears directly on some of the context I think we need if we are to understand our times and our peers without losing our sense of compassion.

I would like to suggest you watch, or re-watch, a movie from the 1970s; that decade which has proven to be so pivotal in retrospect. I am not saying I approve of everything in this movie. Indeed some part of it should offend the sensibilities of just about anyone watching. Yet adults are meant to visit Disneyland, not to try to live there. We live in an R rated world. Some of the people who want power over us seek to keep us infantilized, insisting we only consume G rated fare. Others seek to become powerful at our expense, and make a buck, by sewing addictions to the X rated, as if that made someone a real adult. I suggest here, as in so many other areas, the wisest course is to seek the middle way. Adult life is R rated.

The movie Network was the winner of four Academy Awards in 1976. It’s a movie about a prophet and a prophetic movie. It has a couple of speeches I think all people should listen to, particularly Americans just now.