WHEN THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD

7 03 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I was commenting in a discussion thread on Facebook that had started with a local, politically active friend bemoaning the abysmally low turnout in the last election.  Here in Tennessee, only 29.1 percent of the electorate bothered to show up at the polls, the second lowest turnout in the country.  This enabled the sixteen percent of Tennessee voters who actually support banning abortion and income taxes, and who approve of the mean-spirited program of the Republican Party, to feel as if they had swept like a mighty tide over the state.

Well, I pointed out, the Democrat Party hasn’t really put up much of a fight.  Their leadership is inextricably tied to the national DP leadership, which is, truth be told, “progressive” only in its rhetoric, and then only when it needs to attempt to motivate “progressives” to vote for Democrats.  The progressive rhetoric, which is never truly radical, certainly not anti-corporate, and absolutely never questions capitalism, is quickly cast aside once the election’s over, and, if they win, the Dems go back to being the same old imperialist, corporatist, center-right party they’ve always been.  So, I said to the folks in the thread, why don’t all you progressives come over to the Green Party?

stein_chanceResponse? He was shocked, absolutely shocked.  “When Greens run, Democrats lose,” wrote my friend.  Another commenter chimed in, “Nader cost Gore the 2000 election.  Look what that got us.”

It was late at night, I was feeling ill, and I was short on temper and brains. “You guys have drunk too much Democrat kool-aid,” I fumed, and quit the group in disgust.  It didn’t take me long to regret my grumpiness and haste, but they declined to let me back in the group. I had had a chance to unmask some of my friends’ illusions, and I had blown it.  What I am telling you today is for my own benefit as well as for the benefit of the many people who would have echoed their words, reminding me to be patient with those who have fallen for the Big Lie about Nader, and the many other big lies that, er, underlie our sociopolitical fabric. Read the rest of this entry »





DESPAIR

7 03 2015

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.  Please purchase this book!  You can buy it here, and you can read the chapter on line here. While many people understand that the solution to climate change involves more than a disembedded choice of alternative technologies, few would say that those dedicating their lives to marriage equality for gay people, compassion to the homeless, or care for the autistic are doing something essential for the survival of our species. But that is only because our understanding of interbeing is still shallow. I would like to suggest that anything that violates or disrupts the Story of Separation will heal any and all of the consequences of that story. This includes even the tiny, invisible actions that our rational mind, steeped in the logic of Separation, says cannot possibly make a difference. It includes the kind of actions that get squeezed out by the big crusades to save the world…..

….Readers of my earlier books will forgive me for requoting this passage from “A Free Man’s Worship” by Bertrand Russell, one of the great minds of the modern era:

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

As I have hinted, the story on which Russell bases his conclusions is no longer so certain. A philosophy that rejects them can indeed hope to stand—on the foundation of the quantum interconnectedness and indeterminacy, the tendency of nonlinear systems toward spontaneous organization and autopoiesis; the capacity of organisms and environments to purposely restructure DNA; and the proliferation of scientific anomalies that promise further paradigm shifts to come. Without attempting to make a rigorous philosophical case for it, I will observe that all these scientific revolutions lend themselves, at least metaphorically, to a very different Story of the World.

music:  Jane Siberry, “Gospel of Darkness

Tabla Beat Science, “Sacred Channel

Jane Siberry  “Then We Heard a Shout” (first link is album version, second is live performance w/ commentary)





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 »





CLIMATE

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)





THE LITTLE GREEN SCHOOLHOUSE

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 »





SCIENCE

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





FORCE

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.

 








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