WHAT WOULD A DEMON DO? (revisited)

7 02 2015

This is a revised version of one of a commentary from one of my very first radio shows.  I think it’s worth revisiting.

Let’s engage in a little freewheeling fantasy, folks.

Let’s look at the world today and ask,demonWhat would a demon do?

A demon, in Western religious tradition, is a servant of Satan. It’s a demon’s job to make hell unpleasant for the rest of its inhabitants, to tempt us mere mortals into sin, or to afflict us once we’ve fallen. And how, in this day and age, might a demon afflict thee? Let me count some of the ways:

Demons can make sure souls are trapped in unhappy situations—for example, a life in which your mother didn’t want to have you in the first place and lacks the motivation, support, and resources to bring you up happily. Hell for you, hell for her.

Or, you could be born to parents who wanted you, but who find their own lives disrupted and crushed by vast forces beyond their control—drought, flood, war, disease, overpopulation, famine, marauding oil companies—you know, the classic horsemen of the apocalypse. A refugee camp in Africa for your kindergarten? Hell for just about everyone. Read the rest of this entry »


7 02 2015

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”  You can read the entire chapter here, and buy the book here.

What, then, of the climate change activist who says, “Certainly, inclusivity, exposing unconscious racism and classism, giving voice to the marginalized, nonviolent communication, deep listening skills, and so forth are all worthy goals, but we are talking about the survival of our species here. We need to achieve CO2 reduction by whatever means necessary. These other things can come later. None will matter if we don’t stop the six or eight degree temperature rise that our present course entails. Therefore, to devote oneself to these things, or indeed to most social issues, is a bit frivolous.”

It may not be obvious, but this view buys in to another version of the Story of Separation, in which the universe comprises a multitude of independent phenomena. In it, an environmental leader’s neglect of his family or contracting of minimum-wage janitorial services has no bearing on global climate change. Quantum mechanics, with its collapse of the self/other, object/universe, observer/observed distinction, offers us a new set of intuitions about how reality works. I won’t say that it “proves” that by changing your beliefs or relationships you will remedy climate change. It does, however, suggest a principle of interconnectedness that implies that every action has cosmic significance. But even without sourcing that principle in quantum mechanics, we can get there simply by asking, What is the real cause of climate change? CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases, perhaps? Okay, what is the cause of those? Maybe consumerism, technological arrogance, and the growth imperative built in to the financial system. And what is the cause of those? Ultimately it is the deep ideologies that govern our world, the defining mythology of our civilization that I have called the Story of Separation…..

….Yes, my friends, the conceptual revolution we are beginning goes this deep. We need to rediscover the mind of nature, to return to our original animism and the ensouled universe it perceived. We need to understand nature, the planet, the sun, the soil, the water, the mountains, the rocks, the trees, and the air as sentient beings whose destiny is not separate from our own. As far as I know, no indigenous person on Earth would deny that a rock bears some kind of awareness or intelligence. Who are we to think differently? Are the results of the modern scientific view so impressive as to justify such arrant presumptuousness? Have we created a society more beautiful than they? In fact, as the example of the quantum particle suggests, science is finally circling back toward animism. To be sure, scientific paradigms that countenance an intelligent universe are mostly heterodox today, but they are gradually encroaching on the mainstream. Take the example of water. Emerging from the shadows of homeopathy, anthroposophy, and research by marginal figures like Masaru Emoto and the brilliant Viktor Schauberger, the idea that water itself is alive, or at least bears structure and individuality, is now being explored by mainstream scientists like Gerald Pollack. We still have a long way to go before anything like the sentience of all matter can be accepted, or even articulated, by science. But imagine what that belief would mean when we contemplate mountaintop removal mining, polluting aquifers with fracking fluid, and so on.

Whatever the mechanism—greenhouse gases, deforestation, or solar fluctuations—climate change is sending us an important message. We and Earth are one. As above, so below: what we do to each other, even to the smallest animal or plant, we do to all creation. Perhaps all our small, invisible acts imprint themselves upon the world in ways we do not understand.

music: Brother Martin and the Intangibles, “We Are Water,” “Molecules”  (“Molecules” can also be heard here, and both songs are on the Brother Martin and the Intangibles Facebook page, which you will find if you click the “Intangibles” link)


11 01 2015

(This post was adapted from a post in my “Holsinger for House” blog)

music:  Chuck Berry, School Days

Educating young people is the most important thing our society, or any society, does, if only for the selfish reason that some day, our generation will be too old to rake care of ourselves, let alone maintain our culture, and so we need to do the best we can to teach the next generation how to take our place.28784grad-girl

Public schools are the main vehicle for doing this in our society.  At this point in time, I think they are not doing a very good job, despite the good intentions of nearly everyone involved in the process.  There are many reasons for this, and there are also concrete steps that could be taken to create a public school system that is responsive to the needs of the 21st century. Our culture is in the midst of many rapid changes, and our school systems need to change to meet new conditions.

First, I would like to discuss several well-intended reforms that have ultimately changed our schools for the worse, through the unintended consequences they engendered.

Read the rest of this entry »


11 01 2015

this is a chapter from “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible,” by Charles Eisenstein.

Our conception of what is “practical” harbors a trap. “Practical” encodes the laws of cause and effect that the old world has handed us, and according to those laws, nothing we do can possibly be enough to create a more beautiful world, or even to much ameliorate the awfulness of this one. The crises are too great, the powers-that-be too strong, and you are just one tiny individual. If even the most powerful of our system, the Presidents and CEOs, feel at the mercy of forces greater than themselves, constrained by their roles and job descriptions, so much the more powerless are we.

It is no wonder, then, that so many activists sooner or later come to grapple with despair. They might say, “When I was young and idealistic, I poured limitless energy into tackling problems, but eventually I realized just how big the problems were, and just how powerful the resistance to change. Nothing I can do can possibly be enough.” In other words, they have tried and exhausted everything in the category of practical…..

music:  “The Quantum World

Winston, it is shown, is really no different from the Party in putting an abstract and unreachable goal ahead of any means. It is significant that the Brotherhood is phony, a fabrication of the Party; it is the Party. In the same way, only perhaps more subtly, the social or environmental crusader who sacrifices human values for the cause is no true revolutionary at all, but the opposite: a pillar of the system. We see again and again, within environmental organizations, within leftist political groups, the same bullying of underlings, the same power grabs, the same egoic rivalries as we see everywhere else. If these are played out in our organizations, how can we hope that they won’t be played out in the world we create, should we be victorious?

Some groups, recognizing this, devote much of their time to group process, seeking to implement within their own organizations the egalitarian, inclusive goals they are striving to bring to society. The danger is that the group becomes all about itself and fails to accomplish any external goals. Many Occupy groups experienced this tendency. Nonetheless, these efforts to work out new principles of organization and consensus signify a growing realization of the unity of the internal and the external. It isn’t simply about demonstrating one’s virtue by being egalitarian or inclusive. It is that who we are and how we relate affect what we create.

music:  Eurhythmics, “Doubleplus Good” (substituted “Sexcrime“)

Pru Clearwater and the Infinite Field, “Free Your Mind


14 12 2014

This is the sixth chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can buy the book here.  Please do!

The state of interbeing is a vulnerable state. It is the vulnerability of the naive altruist, of the trusting lover, of the unguarded sharer. To enter it, one must leave behind the seeming shelter of a control-based life, protected by walls of cynicism, judgment, and blame. What if I give and do not receive? What if I choose to believe in a greater purpose, and am deluded? What if the universe is an impersonal melee of forces after all? What if I open up, and the world violates me? These fears ensure that ordinarily, no one enters the new story until the old one falls apart. It is not something we attain; it is something we are born into.

The same interbeingness that makes us so immensely vulnerable also makes us immensely powerful. Remember this! Indeed, the vulnerability and the power go hand in hand, because only by relaxing the guard of the separate self can we tap into power beyond its ken. Only then can we accomplish things that are, to the separate self, impossible. Put another way, we become capable of things that we don’t know how to “make” happen…..

the chapter ends:

This book is a call to surrender control-based thinking, so that we can accomplish things far exceeding the capacity of our force. It is an invitation into a radically different understanding of cause and effect, and therefore a radically different conception of what is practical. Acting accordingly, our choices often seem, to those operating within the old paradigms, to be crazy: naive, impractical, irresponsible. Indeed, they seem that way to that part of ourselves—and I trust that it lives just as much in you as it does in me—that also inhabits the old story. You might recognize its voice, critical, disparaging, doubting, insinuating. It wants us to stay small, safe, protected in our little bubbles of control. My purpose here is not to urge you to fight that voice or purge it; simply recognizing it for what it is already begins to loosen its power.

None of this is to imply that we should never use force, or that we should abandon all forms of acculturation that depend on winning acceptance from parents, elders, and the group. These will always be important parts of the human drama. However, our deep ideologies have blinded us to other ways of initiating change. This book will explore the return of force (and reason, linear thinking, etc.) to its proper domain.



14 12 2014

music:  Christy Moore, “Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette“(lyrics)

From time to time, I find myself telling somebody that the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not necessary, and often as not I am met with the rejoinder that the attacks “saved American lives.”  I’ve been meaning to explore that reasoning for a while, but recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Cleveland and Dayton Ohio, to name just four examples, have brought the subject to the fore, and I think that going into this meme in some depth, and tracing its history both backwards and forwards from 1945, might just raise somebody’s consciousness besides mine–which, as those who know me well will attest, needs all the elevation it can get.

The historical record seems to indicate that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks were, in fact, entirely superfluous.  The Japanese had been begging for peace terms for months.  But let’s assume  that when the United States nuked those two Japanese cities in August of 1945, American lives were saved by sacrificing Japanese lives.  Which Japanese lives were lost?  And which American lives were saved?

The Japanese who died were, by and large, non-combatants–women, children, and older men.  These people may or may not have been supportive of the Japanese war effort.  They were civilians, subjects of a government that had long ago insulated itself from the influence of its citizens’ opinions. By contrast, the Americans whose lives were allegedly spared by the use of atomic weapons were soldiers, individuals who had indicated a willingness to die for their country, if need be.  And, by the way, they were mostly white guys.  The equation that resulted in the only wartime use of atomic weapons was an equation that valued the lives of white warriors over the lives of dark-skinned civilians.  At least 225,000 non-combatants were killed in these attacks, in order to save an estimated 450,000 American lives, the military’s guess at the human cost of invading Japan–a country that was largely out of food, fuel, raw materials, and weapons, and whose government was actively seeking an end to the war.  Smells like U.S. propaganda to me, but there you have it–one Japanese civilian’s life (either sex, any age) was calculated to be worth the lives of two (male, probably white) American soldiers.

This is right in line with the assumptions our culture has been running on right from the start, and right in line with the assumptions it still runs on.  The lives ofunnamed white males are most important, and most worth protecting.  At the time the Constitution was written, “We, The People of the United States,” when it came to voting and running for office, referred to white, male property owners. I have to wonder–when Republicans advocate “returning to the original meaning of the Constitution,” is this what they’re really talking about? Some things have changed since the 1790’s, but white males are still widely considered to have a right to do as we see fit in order to feel safe.  We are more likely to get away with abusing our wives and children.  We can attack uppity people of color and, more often than not, do so with impunity. Let’s not forget that the Second Amendment–the one about militias and the right to keep and bear arms–was included so that those “militias” would be available to put down slave rebellions–i.e., summarily execute African-Americans who objected to being enslaved. Read the rest of this entry »


8 11 2014

There’s a lot of wind being blown out there about the “Republican resurgence” in the recent election.  Too bad we can’t turn a few turbines with it!

In my view, it comes down to this:  the Democrats paid the price for the Grand Canyon-sized gap between their populist rhetoric and their corporatist reality.   People didn’t turn out to vote for Democrats because the Democrats haven’t delivered on their promises. The reason they beat the “we’re pro-choice” drum so hard is that, when you come right down to it, that’s one of the few real differences between the two wings of the American Corporate Party, but grabbing people by the short hairs didn’t motivate enough voters to come out and participate in the charade this time.  The average voter turnout in the U.S. was 33.9%.  More than 50% of the voters showed up in only 3 states, and the highest rate rates of participation were in Wisconsin and Maine, where a whopping 56% of the voters cast ballots.  In other words, the GOP’s “mandate” comes from less than a quarter of the electorate.  Just as in the Middle East, a small, radical, committed minority is ramming its agenda down the throats, to be polite, of the rest of us.

This was especially evident here in Tennessee, where voter turnout was only 28.5%, meaning that Governor Haslam’s “landslide” reflected the wishes of about 20% of the potential voters in the state.  The number of voters who chose Lamar Alexander and banned a state income tax was lower, down in the upper teens, and our legislature now has the permission of about 15% of the electorate to regulate abortion out of the realm of possibility in Tennessee, which I am quite sure they will do to the best of their ability, as has happened in several other states.

I want to talk more about the abortion issue, because I think the level of deceit employed around the passage of Issue One was truly appalling.  It was billed as a way to “make abortion safer,” but you couldn’t help but notice that its backers were all the churches who think abortion is as sinful as non-marital sex and that the government should enforce their views on this subject.  For these people, Christianity is more about controlling women’s bodies and behavior than it is about being honest and truthful, even though their ostensible guidebook, The Bible, has a lot of bad things to say about “people who love a lie.”

Well, lies or no lies, we can now expect that our legislature will be emboldened to subject all Tennesseans to the “Christian” version of Shari’a.  I wonder what other precepts of Dominionism they will enact,  Perhaps slavery will be reintroduced?  Will the death penalty be inflicted on those who work on Sundays? No, that’s highly unlikely–it would be bad for business! Read the rest of this entry »


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