CYNICISM

11 10 2014

This is the fourth chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.  Please buy this book!  You can do that here.  You can read the full chapter here.

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical

—Supertramp

I would like to speak to those of you who feel triggered by the principles of interbeing I laid out earlier, which I admit smack of New Age puffery. Actually, let me be brutally honest here: I only use the phrase “New Age puffery” as a way to implicitly assure you that I am no dupe of such a thing; that I am on the side of the hardheaded realists. See, here I am joining you in derision.

This is a common tactic. Liberals take special pleasure in criticizing more radical leftists; nuts-and-bolts UFOlogists are vehement in their derision of abduction claims; the kid who is bullied turns on someone still weaker. The unpopular kids in school take pains not to be tainted by association with the very unpopular kids. By doing this, though, we attempt to borrow legitimacy from the very system we hope to subvert, and indirectly enhance its legitimacy by associating our own with its. We commit the same error when we overrely on the academic or professional credentials of our allies to persuade those who are impressed by such things. If I appeal to Dr. Eben Alexander’s status as a professor of neurosurgery to get you to believe in extrasomatic near-death experiences, then implicitly I am affirming that you should trust that status generally, along with the edifice of academic science surrounding it. But generally, those of that status and of that edifice deny his arguments. Appeals to authority will only strengthen authority. What implicit message is encoded in “See, this professor, that Republican, this businessman, that mainstream pundit agree with me”? It is that these people carry the legitimate stamp of approval, and not those outsiders, hippies, the uncredentialed, the unpublished. Using this tactic, we might win the battle, but we will lose the war. Audre Lorde said it well: The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

……

Does that mean the new story is a motivational subterfuge, a device to trick us into acting as if what we did mattered? The last resort of my inner cynic is to say, “Well, I suppose the Story of Interbeing might be useful as a way to deceive people into taking action, but it isn’t true.” I would be like the preacher exhorting people to pious acts while secretly being an unbeliever himself. Underneath this particular cynicism I find again pain, an anguished loneliness. It wants proof that the Story of Interbeing is true, proof that life has purpose, the universe is intelligent, and that I am more than my separate self. I wish I could rely on evidence to choose my belief. But I cannot. Which story is true, Separation or Interbeing? I will in this book offer evidence that fits the latter, but none of it will constitute proof. No evidence is ever enough. There is always an alternate explanation: coincidence, fraud, wishful thinking, etc. Absent conclusive evidence, you will have to decide on some other basis, such as “Which story is most aligned with who you truly are, and who you truly want to be?” “Which story gives you the most joy?” “From which story are you most effective as an agent of change?” To make such a choice on something other than evidence and reason is already a huge departure from the Story of Separation and its objective universe.

So, am I tricking you? Surely, if I offered the new story from a place of secret disbelief, I would be an ineffective storyteller. My duplicity would show in one form or another and mar the integrity of the narrative. That is not to say that I have fully stepped into the Story of Interbeing and the total faith and trust it implies. Far from it. Fortunately, my ability to tell the story doesn’t depend on my faith alone. I am surrounded by many, many other people who themselves, imperfectly as I do, hold the same story. Together we move deeper and deeper into it. Enlightenment is a group activity.

Supertramp, “The Logical Song”

Richard Thompson–“Cooksferry Queen





CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT THE ONLY “INCONVENIENT TRUTH”

11 10 2014

truthlies

(This is a slightly edited version of a blog post that first appeared in my candidate blog, “Holsinger for House.”  You can read the original here.)

Al Gore called his landmark presentation on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.”  I think he chose the word “an” very purposefully,  He’s a smart guy, and he knows that climate change is not the only “inconvenient truth.”  There are many “inconvenient truths,”  subjects and realities that conventional American politics carefully avoids or glosses over.  Gore explored this in a subsequent book, “The Assault on Reason,” a volume that most Democrats seem to have chosen to ignore. I believe American politics would benefit from greater public awareness of and dialogue on these “inconvenient truths. ”  Here are some that come to my mind.  If you have any other ones you would like to nominate, feel free to comment!

GROWTH IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION

Conventional politics is religiously dedicated to the proposition that fostering “economic growth” will solve all our problems, and that anything that halts or slows “economic growth” is a Bad Thing.  This theory has been most notoriously promulgated as “trickle-down economics,” AKA “Reaganomics,” but its practice is not confined to the GOP.  The fallacy of economic growth as a solution to our problems is that we live on a finite planet, with finite resources, and our dedication to “growth” is running up against the limits of those resources, whether we are talking about fossil fuels, phosphates, clean water, fish, other foodstuffs, arable land, oxygen, or anything else tangible.  If we use up all of these things, even over the next few hundred years, what will people (and  other animals) do to substitute for them in a thousand years? Ten thousand years?

The notion that “whatever increases the Gross National Product is good, “is gross.  Hurricane-caused damage increases the GNP.  Diseases that require expensive treatment increase the GNP; frequently, diseases are caused by other activities, such as environmental degradation, that increase the GNP.  Lots of things that increase the GNP make us less happy.  Happiness comes from a sane state of mind, not the possession of a mountain of toys.

“Economic growth” has tended to benefit those who are already wealthy more than those of us who are not.   That leads to another inconvenient truth, which is that

AMERICA IS AN OLIGARCHY

The wealthy and powerful, the people the Occupy! movement refers to as “The One Percent,” are the people who call the tune in this country. It doesn’t matter what is best for most people, whether it’s an open internet, a sane health care system, a decent neighbourhood, or a clean environment.  Our government will do what benefits the wealthy. Read the rest of this entry »





INTERBEING, by Charles Eisenstein

14 09 2014

(The entire chapter will be read live on the air.)

A recognition of alliance is growing among people in diverse arenas of activism, whether political, social, or spiritual.  The acupuncturist and the sea turtle rescuer may not be able to explain the feeling, “We are serving the same thing,” but they are.  Both are in service to an emerging Story of the People that is the defining mythology of a new kind of civilization…..

read the rest here, or, better yet, buy the book!

….The new Story of the People, then, is a story of Interbeing, of reunion.  In its personal expression, it proclaims our deep interdependency on other beings, not only for the sake of surviving but also even to exist.  It knows tht my being is more for your being.  In its collective expression, the new story says the same thing about humanity’s role on Earth and relationship to the rest of nature.   It is this story tht unites us across so many areas of activism and healing.  The more we act from it, the better able we are to create a world that reflects it.  The more we act from Separation, the more we helplessly create more of that, too.

music:  Blind Faith, “Sea of Joy





CAN WE ALL GET ALONG?

14 09 2014

One of my readers is a guy who was a hippie in San Francisco in the late 60’s, but then took, as it were, “The right-hand path,” deciding that, in his words, “Conservatives have better answers than liberals.”  He first contacted me several years ago to comment on my tendency to refer to the two major parties as “Repuglycans” and “Dumbocrats,” pointing out that this was likely to turn off more people than it would turn on.  Well, those were juvenile insults stemming from my own deep sense of powerlessness in the ongoing circus, and I’ve abandoned the terms.  Last month, he got in touch with me again, asking

 I am curious — assuming you aren’t entrenched in a belief that conservatives are “sociopaths” or suffer from some other deficiency — what you make of this divide and how we might nonetheless speak across it and find some manner of constructively engaging each other…..I do wonder what it means for our country that we have become so polarized and separated that there is almost no temperate discussion across the divide. If you would like to compare notes on that, I’d be quite interested.

to which I replied:

This question, I think, is one of several that needs to be answered–and (those answers) implemented–if complex life forms on the planet are to have a future. As I’ve turned this over in my mind since I first read it, I have come up with several different approaches, and I think I’m going to have to write them down to fully understand what they mean and where they lead. That’s not something I’m going to do right this moment, but  i appreciate your request as a call to organize my thoughts on the subject, including what I mean when I say “sociopath.”

I asked him for more information about how he saw things, so that I would have a better idea of who/what I was addressing, and he wrote

I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable. I don’t believe human nature changes much. I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse. I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary. Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others. I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide. I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.

The time has come for me to fulfil my promise.  To some extent, I’m going to be thinking out loud (so to say), and I’m not quite sure where this is going to land.  It may not be pretty, or even cheerful, but here goes. Read the rest of this entry »





WHAT ONE PERSON CAN ACCOMPLISH

2 08 2014

youngstephenStephen Gaskin, who was my first spiritual teacher, died last month.  I want to take this opportunity to appreciate the man and his work.

Perhaps the first thing is to clarify is what I’m talking about when I say “spiritual teacher.,” and why I have chosen to let Stephen, and others, play that role in my life.

Let’s consider basketball.  If you really like to play basketball, you don’t just shoot hoops in your driveway.  You get together with other people who want to play, and, if you’re really serious, you find a coach, somebody who knows the game well enough to teach it well.  Life is like that.  We all find our teachers, spiritual or not.  If you want to make a lot of money, you might find a mentor who will show you those ropes.  If it’s your perception that the best things in life are not things, and if, for you, unselfishness is more important than selfishness, then you might want to get together with other people who feel that way and find somebody you respect who can show you those ropes.  Christians call that a congregation and a preacher.  Eastern religions call it a sangha and a guru.

That’s what I was looking for when I first went to California in 1968, but, raised as a secular Jew, I didn’t have a name or even a concept for it.  I just knew, when I went to my first Monday Night Class at The Gallery Lounge on the San Francisco State College campus, that I had found what I was looking for, like a drowning man who encounters a piece of flotsam big enough to support him and save his life.

Yes, meeting Stephen saved my life. Just as some people, even when they’re very young, know “I’m not heterosexual,” or “The sex of the body I’m in is not the sex I feel I am,” I grew up feeling that the society I was expected to enter on adulthood was not the society I wanted to live in.  Like many a young sexual misfit, this disconnect was the source of a great deal of anxiety, neurosis, and self-destructive behavior for me.  Connecting with Stephen, his teachings, and the Monday Night Class community that ultimately became The Farm pulled meout of the steep dive my life was in.  Stephen and the Class opened a magic door for me, into a world where I could  have a life, a family, and a community that were more in alignment with the kind of society in which I felt I belonged. The Farm, “Stephen’s family monastery” for all its imperfections, was the best home I ever had, a home I have been trying in vain to recreate ever since the community came unglued in the early 80’s.farm

Read the rest of this entry »





BREAKDOWN

2 08 2014

(This is the second chapter of Charles Eisenstein‘s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”   MBW_fullI have reproduced the opening and the closing paragraphs.  You can find the whole book here, for free, but please support Charles Eisenstein by buying the book!  Thank you!

 

The kingdom of God is for the broken hearted.”

–Fred Rogers

It is frightening, this transition between worlds, but it is also alluring.  Have you ever gotten addicted to doom-and-gloom websites, logging on every day to read the latest evidence that collapse is coming soon, feeling almost let down when Peak Oil didn’t start in 2005, or the financial system didn’t collapse in 2008? (I’m still worried about Y2K, myself.)  Do you look toward the future with a mixture of dread, yes, but also a kind of positive anticipation?  When a big crisis looms, a superstorm or a financial crisis, is there a part of you that says, “Bring it on” hoping it might free us from our collective entrapment in a system that serves no one (not even its elites)?

……superstorm

We do not have a new story yet.  Each of us is aware of some of its threads, for example in most of the things we call alternative, holistic, or ecological today.  Here and there we see patterns, designs, emerging parts of the fabric.  But the new mythos has not formed. We will abide for a time in the “space between stories.”  It is a very precious–some might say sacred–time.  Then we are in touch with the real.  Each disaster lays bare the reality underneath our stories.  The terror of a child, the grief of a mother, the honesty of not knowing why.  In such moments our dormant humanity awakens as we come to each other’s aid, human to human, and learn who we are.  That’s what keeps happening every time there is a calamity, before the old beliefs, ideologies, and politics take over again.  Now the calamities and contradictions are coming so fast that the story has not enough time to recover.  Such is the birth process into a new story. 

music:  Grateful Dead, “New Speedway Boogie” (first is the studio version, second is gret live footage from a 1970 concert)





FROM THE MAILBAG

2 08 2014

obama-gun-controlI received the following response to my July essay, “The Second Amendment.”  I was in the middle of a lot of other things when I received it, so I published it, gave a brief response, and promised more later.  My comments and responses follow the text of the letter.

Interesting take on the 2nd Amendment. If England would have had better gun control laws then the revolution would have never happened. If England would have taken the rifles from their citizens and allowed only the Soldiers of the Crown to use them, our nation would have never been born.

I find your post, in all honesty, hypocritical. The reason is simple, you speak of how the Farm was brought down by the FBI and the CIA – a shadow government. Yet, you speak of only allowing the government and criminals to own guns – for they are one and the same in many cases. What happens when they come for you?

Read the rest of this entry »








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