Graffiti on The Lee Monument | Gray

Poem

Graffiti on The Lee Monument | Gray


Graffiti on The Lee Monument
Richmond, Virginia 2020

My friend studies graffiti
From Roman ruins
I once heard her speak on the things
We learn from words arrested by time
When ash rained down and paused life
Before it could be curated into
Narrative sanitized to serve power
And I look at the statue
In the center of the road
That runs directly into my house
And I wonder what historians
Would make of it
Were we to be unearthed after burial
By a rain of sudden ash today
Exaltation of wars lost
Cries of pain and liberation
Coexisting on that marble
What will history say
Of the part I played
When it came in teargas plumes
Up the road to my door
Did I answer, or peer between the blinds
Afraid. Till time moved on
When they dissect our memory
Hold this crossroads
History meeting urgency
Of tonight and live-streamed sudden storms
How will they interpret
Urgent scribblings of righteous anger
Expletives and prayers
History denied a people
Too long, too late
Till at last
Fire falls


Gray

Last night
Some of my city burned
This morning after surveying
The remains
I decided to finish painting
My dining room table: blue
And the chairs
Confederate gray
Irony not lost
The whole world is exploding
In black and white and fire
On Pentecost Sunday
No less
I think there is a sermon here
In the gaping mouth
Of a burnt-out storefront
I told my children to look
This is history
Don’t look away
Is there any room for gray?
Abstract sacrifice
Concrete strewn with glass
And looted video games
Stepping over sprawling expletives
My children see them
I tell them they do not
Need to look away
I do not know where to stand
Between the primal urge
To retreat to safety
And the Holy call
To insist even voices
That hurl curses
Be heard
City crews are already out
Returning the monuments
To their pristine state
Leaving the homes and stores
and streets to clean their own debris
How fast the default to whiteness
Is restored
I walk this street every day
I know this city
I already know
As I apply my brushstrokes
Carefully, prayerfully
Covering every spot

There is no room for gray

About Rachel Loughlin

Rachel Loughlin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University where she received the Undergraduate Poetry Award. She is a graphic designer, eternally optimistic gardener, runner, muralist, and writer living in Richmond, Virginia. Her work appears in Pure Slush Books, Green Ink Poetry, and Kind of a Hurricane Press.

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The Sanctity of Food

Essay Food

The Sanctity of Food


Few people on Earth understand the dire state of humanity’s current food supply and what are likely to be severe and ultimately fatal disruptions in our food supply in the coming years due to climate chaos and industrial farming. One person who understands our food predicament more clearly than anyone we know is Michael Brownlee of Boulder, Colorado, author of The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times. In this book, Brownlee is inciting a local food revolution, and this revolution is far more expansive, far more radical, and far more life-altering than creating a few farmers markets and promoting one’s local economy. According to Brownlee, our industrial food system “has itself become the greatest threat to humanity’s being able to feed itself.” However, this revolution is not merely an uprising against the global industrial food system but also a “coming together to build something new in the face of nearly impossible odds.” In fact, it is a spiritual, as well as social and political, event because it will require us to learn how to feed ourselves. What is more, it is a “center of aliveness in the midst of a dying civilization” which “provides more than hope; it is a revolution of the deeper meaning and purpose and presence that lie ahead, emerging mysteriously out of a convergence of seed, soil, soul, and stars.” The Unholy Alliance—Big Food, Big Agriculture, and Big Pharma, empowered by Big Banking and Big Government—has deprived us of the autonomy of learning how to feed ourselves and has also convinced farmers, entrepreneurs, and investors that solutions for feeding the world are technological only.10

In other words, in the local food revolution that must happen, “we are not attempting to change or fix the global industrial food system. We’re simply putting all our efforts into building our own food system, our own regional foodsheds.” According to Brownlee, we must “resign as consumers” and opt out of the global food system which is what the Unholy Alliance fears most: losing control of our food supply, but more fundamentally, losing control of us.11

For Brownlee, the realization that we are now facing impending catastrophic climate change has been life-changing in the way that near-death experiences often are. He notes that abrupt climate change is giving humanity a near-death experience that may provide, as such experiences often do, an entirely new outlook on life. Part of this new outlook for the author has been his countless epiphanies with regard to food and the possibility of an emerging food revolution. Such a revolution could not have occurred in the context of business as usual but rather, as Brownlee states, “the food revolution manifesting around local food can occur only at the moment of the death of a civilization . . . in the same way that the supernova process is possible only with the death of a star.”12

Thus, urgent, radical involvement in our local food system, as well as how we prepare, cook, preserve, and conserve our food, is a pivotal aspect of regeneration. Our practices for growing and distributing food in the face of catastrophic climate change and toxic industrial food policies must be solidly in place, otherwise regeneration will not be possible, because those remaining on the planet will perish.

The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers who never knew exactly where their next meal might be coming from. In fact, their “meals” were probably eaten on the run as they stalked enough prey to constitute an actual meal, but it is unlikely that their meals were regular or even eaten daily. Given the conditions under which they secured food, it was impossible for them to take any of it for granted. Every morsel was hard-won and therefore, exceedingly precious.

When humans became sedentary, they transitioned from hunting and gathering to growing their own food and, while this made eating more predictable as a result of a more stable lifestyle, few ate mindlessly. Whether living in a small agricultural village along the Nile River in ancient times or growing food in one’s backyard garden in the twenty-first century, small-scale agriculture is labor-intensive, and appreciation for food is greatly enhanced by the energy expended in growing it.

Sedentary societies were dependent on the kindness of nature to provide the rain and sunshine necessary for growing food. Thus, many Earth-based forms of spirituality evolved in which humans experienced a direct connection between the agricultural harvest and a particular deity such as Osiris in Egypt and Ceres in Rome. As part of their gratitude for what they believed the deity had provided, people offered food to the gods and goddesses of nature.

Throughout human history, particularly in indigenous cultures, food has been perceived as sacred. The word sacred is not a religious term but rather one that simply means “set apart” or not of the ordinary. It is also related to “sacrifice,” which may mean that something is sacred because it derived from something sacrificed. For example, we speak of battlefields and military cemeteries as sacred. In ancient times, some temples, mountains, or forests were sacred because animals were sacrificed to a god in those places. All food is sacred in the sense that the life of a plant or animal has been sacrificed to feed another being.

Ancient, traditional societies understood that food is life force energy for which they needed to exert significant amounts of energy, whether by hunting or growing it in order to eat. Because their survival was often in jeopardy, food became sacred to these cultures.

With the mass movement of people from the land to cities, the sanctity of food was eclipsed by fascination with artificial, synthetic, and technologically produced forms of food. No longer was it necessary to hunt or grow food because now it was delivered from short or long distances to nearby markets. Thus it seems that the sacredness of food decreased in proportion to the energy required to obtain it.

At this moment we are witnessing, and many of us are participating in, an unprecedented transition from industrial agriculture to sustainable (local, organic) agriculture. While this transition has been shaped by declining resources, including fossil fuels, and while an increasing number of individuals prefer to eat foods grown closer to home that have not been contaminated with pesticides, attempting to define the transition exclusively in terms of science or sustainability discounts the role of the human soul in it. In other words, there is a spiritual component to this phenomenon.

In his article “Reclaiming the Sacred in Food and Farming,” University of Missouri Emeritus Professor of Agriculture and Economics John Ikerd writes of the spirituality of sustainable agriculture and asks, “What is this thing called spirituality?” His answer: “[S]pirituality is not religion, at least not as it is used here. Religion is simply one of many possible means of expressing one’s spirituality. William James, a religious philosopher, defined religion as ‘an attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things.’ Paraphrasing James, one might define spirituality as ‘a need to be in harmony with an unseen order.’ This definition embraces a wide range of cultural beliefs, philosophies, and religions.”13

Ikerd proceeds to quote statements defining spirituality from a variety of cultures, and summarizes them by saying:

A common thread of all these expressions of spirituality is the existence of an unseen order or interconnected web that defines the oneness of all things within a unified whole. We as people are a part of this whole. We may attempt to understand it and even influence it, but we did not create nor can we control it. Thus, we must seek peace through harmony within the order of things beyond our control. This harmony may be defined as “doing the right things.” And, by “doing the right things” for ourselves, for others around us, and for those of future generations, we create harmony and find inner peace.14 

As students of mythology and ritual, we must also ask what the symbolism of this transition may be for our time. On some level, whether conscious or unconscious, we are all aware of the dire predicament in which we and our planet are mired at this point in human history. In fact, we believe that through a return to sustainable agriculture and in the very act of growing our own food, some aspect of the human psyche is bowing to the Earth and the sacred in gratitude for and resonance with the elements of the soil from which we have evolved. The ramifications of this in our lives and our communities have been and may well continue to be astounding—a renewed reverence for the Earth, a heightened appreciation for nutrition and the health benefits of organic food, a deepened connection with our families and communities around growing and eating food in our local place, and enmeshing local foodsheds directly with local economic development, to name only a few.

The opposite of the sacred, of course, is the profane. Something in our ancient memory understands that mindlessly manufactured and technologically tortured so-called “food” constitutes the most profane of substances, unfit to be ingested by human bodies. The more deeply immersed we are in the sanctity of food and its origins, the more we are likely to be repelled by processed, genetically modified, and chemical-laden foods that have been produced by way of massive resource and ecological destruction, and which deliver more of the same to our physiology.

The sacred within us instinctively resonates with the sanctity of food. Therefore, the growing, transporting, distribution, and consumption of food are sacred acts that deserve ritual and reverence from the moment the seed is planted in the Earth to the moment we have washed and put away the plate on which our food was served.

How then specifically do we respond when we return to the reality of food as sacred? Peter Bolland, in his article, “The Sacrament of Food,” says, “Maybe the most sacred space in your home is not the yoga room, or the altar with the candle, or the chair by the window where you meditate and pray. Maybe the most sacred room in your house is the kitchen.” But our interaction with food begins far in advance of preparing it in the kitchen. Here are some suggestions for cultivating more mindful reverence in our relationship with food:

  • Know exactly where your food comes from. Read labels, ask questions, and research sources for whole, organic foods in your region.
  • Consider becoming a community supported agriculture (CSA) member. This allows you to buy directly from the farmer or grower.
  • Give thanks when you shop—thank the food you purchase, thank the market staff, and give thanks that you can afford to shop.
  • Commit to making 10% or more of your total food purchases food which is grown locally.
  • Mindfully plan your meals. Perhaps it won’t be possible for you to eat at home today or tomorrow or the next day because you are traveling or because of time constraints. Plan a strategy for eating in places where nourishing food is served or plan to bring healthy snacks with you.
  • Take a moment or two to stop before eating and give thanks for your food. Remember to thank the people who grew, harvested, transported, and distributed your food. Thank plants and animals for their lives and the sacrifice they made with their lives so that you can be fed.
  • Regularly enjoy food with family and friends. Cook and eat meals together. Share the sacrament of food with each other in potlucks or other gatherings.
  • Occasionally share extra food or leftovers with neighbors or people who are not in your family or circle of friends. In a world of skyrocketing food prices and climate change, food “security” may become increasingly “insecure,” and sharing food with others communicates a subtle message that you are concerned about their wellbeing in hard times. Reaching out in this way encourages reciprocity around food so that when someone has little or no food, others are more motivated to share.15

While eating is a political and an economic act, it is also a sacrament. How we eat matters not only to ourselves but to everyone else, or, in the words of Peter Bolland, “The way we eat is the way we live. How we eat is who we are. Let us affirm that which is best in us and in each other through the sacrament of food.”

 

Reprinted by Permission of the publishers Inner Traditions Bear and Company 2023.

Offering a deep discussion of our global dark night in terms of the Kali Yuga, the authors examine the dangers of a growing constellation of intractable crises—authoritarianism both in America and abroad, climate change, economic inequality, social upheaval, and spiritual malaise. They explore the antidotes to these crises: Sacred Activism—specifically, creative, wise, sacredly inspired action—and a profound understanding of our evolutionary ordeal and its potentialities. Examining the power of joy to help enact personal and planetary transformation, they explain how joy, or ananda, is a force all mystical traditions recognize as the essence of the divine. They reveal how to uncover and sustain joy in ourselves and how to use joy as fuel for continuing Sacred Activism in dangerous times.

ISBN: 9781644115602, November 2022 Also available as an ebook. Hardcover: $29.99, 576 pages, 6 x 9 Imprint: Inner Traditions

References

[10] [11] [12] Brownlee, Michael. The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times. North Atlantic Books, 2016.
[13][14] Ikerd, John E. Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture. University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
[15] http://peterbolland.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-sacrament-of-food.html

About Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey is an internationally renowned religious scholar, writer, spiritual teacher, and the author of more than 30 books. The founder and director of the Institute for Sacred Activism, he lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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About Carolyn Baker

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is a former psychotherapist and professor of psychology and history. The author of several books, she offers life and leadership coaching as well as spiritual counseling and works closely with the Institute for SacredActivism. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Origin | from "The Story of Gaia"

Gallery Cosmos

Origin | from “The Story of Gaia”


ATTUNEMENT

Closing my eyes and slowing my breath, I imagine the beginning of our Universe. It is black. Not the transparent black clarity of a night sky tinged by stars. Nor the blackness of squid ink, black yet with a hint of blue. But an utter and complete blackness. Not an empty void but replete with everything and the potentiality of what might come. Not a black hole, but the black whole.

It is minute; tiny almost beyond comprehension. Its wholeness at its first moment is as small compared to my body as I am to the vastness of what it has since grown into over its 13.8 billion-year-long evolutionary journey.

It is hot. One hundred trillion trillion times as hot as the interiors of its stellar progeny will be billions of years in its future.

It is simple; though only as simple as it can be to gift an eventual cornucopia of planets, plants, and people.

I am in wonder at the audacity of its visionary magnificence. How, how! could the infinite and eternal mind of the Cosmos dream the perfect intricacy of such a thought?

And why?

The big bang wasn’t big and it wasn’t a bang.

Instead of our Universe beginning in the implicit chaos of a “bang,” it was born in a minuscule and incredibly simple and ordered state.

Its laws of physics, the informational algorithms guiding its existence and evolution, were extremely fine-tuned, and the relationships between its fundamental physical attributes and the associated numerical constants they embed were exact to a meticulous degree. Had they differed from what they are by only a minuscule amount, our Universe would never have been able to even exist, let alone go on to evolve.

Its unified nature and the extreme order and simplicity of its birth had the inevitable consequence of a universal and one-way flow of time from its first moment until its last. The complementary and ongoing expansion of space and its holographic manifestation, has, ever since, enabled more and more meaningful in-formation to be embodied within space-time, and it will continue to do so throughout its lifetime. As a finite thought of an infinite and eternal Cosmos and vitally imbued with meaning, the extreme fine-tuning of its laws of physics instills it with an innate evolutionary impulse and essential purpose: to evolve from its original simplicity to ever-greater complexity and individuated and relational levels of self-awareness.

CEERS-93316 formed within the first 235 million years of the ‘Big Breath”. It is the oldest known galaxy.

In doing this, our Universe embodies two universal principles that continue to guide and be way-showers in the ongoing journey of exploration and discovery. Its first underlying rule is that—to paraphrase Einstein—the Universe is as simple as it can be but no simpler, to manifest its evolutionary impulse. The second is that within its overall conservation of energy-matter and their overall balance to zero, all sub- systems use the minimum energy possible to manifest their existence and its evolutionary impulse.

So rather than a one-off and chaotic big bang, our Universe continues to sound the ongoing harmony in the Big Breath of its emergent potential.

Gaia’s story explores the discoveries and understanding, both leading-edge and ancient, that have progressively perceived how our Universe began and, from its earliest epoch, the long path that would eventually lead to our home world and the myriad abundance of the children she’s birthed, including ourselves.

One of our most venerable of wisdom traditions, the Chinese I Ching, tells that “In the beginning was the one, the one became two, the two became three—and from the three, ten thousand things were born.”

The Orion Nebula, revealing infant stars and the filaments that feed them.

From the potency of its unified oneness, our Universe realizes itself through its universal informational “alphabet” of just two letters: zeros and ones. This simplest of differentiation then combines, imbuing innate meaning into all the diverse expressions of the relational two-nesses of energy-matter and space-time.

Its primary two-fold relationships then further resolve into a multitude of three-fold relationships at all levels of existence.

For example, the two-dimensional holographic boundary of what we call space, through the flow of time, projects the innate and evolving intelligence of the entire Universe into its appearance of three orthogonal dimensions. Our x/y/z experience of left/right, up/down and forward/backward is woven into its semblance, rather than being merely a construct of our awareness.

Within the intrinsic properties of energy-matter, three-fold combinations of quarks make up the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei; the familial groupings of protons, neutrons, and electrons form into stable and electrically neutral atoms and the ubiquity of positively, negatively, and neutrally electrically charged particles and energy fields are subsumed within an overall and exactly neutral Universe.

From its beginning, our Universe has evolved from this foundational simplicity the complexity of the I Ching’s “ten thousand things and more.” From the genesis of its first moment, it was poised and expectant with all the potency of its evolutionary diversity.

Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this galaxy cluster is teeming with thousands of galaxies

Another wisdom tradition, that of the ancient Greeks, intuitively perceived the fundamental nature of number, geometry as number in space and music as number in time, all underpinning their cosmology in a four-fold quadrivium of knowledge. We’ll see how the harmonic and resonant relationships and universal patterns of these teachings are now being newly appreciated as playing all-pervasive roles in the story of Gaia and her Universe.

As a creative and finite emanation of an infinite and eternal Cosmos, its manifestation through its continuing Big Breath also reflects the ancient Vedic perspective of the Breath of Brahman. The Upanishads, a series of discourses in ancient India between seers known as rishis and their students, sets out an integral philosophy of the unified nature of reality and all-pervasiveness of consciousness. Their Ishavasya wisdom teachings seek to guide the understanding of both the unmanifest causative realms of existence with the manifest world that the Breath of Brahman exhales, and which represents the ultimate unity behind and transcendence of all names and forms.

The towering “pillars of creation” – a vast span of sculptured gas and dust located about 6,500 light-years from Earth.

The profound insights of these ancient scholars are being re-appreciated by ever more discoveries of leading-edge science. Even more vitally so, the living lore of Indigenous peoples who have never forgotten the innate web of life that encompasses the whole Cosmos is now being honored as offering experiential guidance to heal our collectively dismembered relationship with Gaia.

With the wisdom and presence of these fellow travelers accompanying us, let’s now begin to share the 13.8 billion-year-journey of Gaia’s story.

An excerpt from The Story of Gaia: The Big Breath and the Evolutionary Journey of Our Conscious Planet.

About Jude Currivan

Jude Currivan, Ph.D., is a cosmologist, futurist, planetary healer, member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle, and previously one of the most senior businesswomen in the UK. She has a master’s degree in physics from Oxford University and a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Reading. She is the author of 6 books, including The Cosmic Hologram, and is co-founder of WholeWorld-View. http://www.judecurrivan.com/

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The Promise of Liberty and the Pain of Separation

Article Integral

The Promise of Liberty and the Pain of Separation


Why the success of a stateless voluntarist society is dependent on healing our individual and collective trauma of separation

Introduction

Recently I have been drawn into an inquiry into the possibilities of a stateless society based on voluntaryism as a solution to many of the challenges we are facing in the world today. It is clear to me that the state is not only highly inadequate at responding with the speed and radical innovation needed to solve the scale of crisis that lies before us. I am increasingly coming to believe that the state as a form of social organisation is beyond its sell-by date and is an embodiment of many of the ills that both progressives and conservatives protest so loudly about.

At this point it is important to frame the perspective through which I look at these issues. I see our collective evolution as the evolution of life expressed through human beings attempting to find ways to balance the freedom of the individual with the needs of the collective. In this context I do not believe that there are lots of individuals in the state who are consciously planning the negative impact of the apparatus they work for. It is simply a system that has evolved over time and which most people accept unquestioningly as an essential part of our society. I find claims that “we are being lied to” as not particularly useful, as I believe most people are just doing what they understand to be the right thing. Playing a blame game triggers emotions that take away from a focus on the content of any criticism and proposals.

A Stateless Voluntarist Society

The arguments against the state as a form of governance and for a stateless voluntarist society focus primarily on the moral principle that no-one should be allowed to initiate violence. Clearly that is permitted for the state—through the military, police and laws that impinge on the individual’s self-expression and creativity. Taxation is often used as an example—the state forces individuals to pay a percentage of their income to be spent on things that the individual has usually not given their consent for. If the individual refuses to pay their taxes, then they could ultimately be imprisoned, and if they resisted, they could be forced at gunpoint. In a stateless society, people would organise through voluntary contracts facilitated by a truly free market. This does of course raise many questions which I have dived into over the last months and found very well thought out responses to.

It does however assume a high level of maturity in individuals to take responsibility and collaborate constructively. As I listened to one proponent of voluntaryism discuss why he felt it so important to focus on safety and wellbeing in the early years of childhood, a big piece of the picture fell into place. His point was that much antisocial and criminal behaviour can be linked to childhood abuse and trauma, and that if we created more loving conditions for our toddlers to grow up in, it would make it much easier to move to a voluntarist stateless society.

Understanding the Human Journey

This illuminated for me a core issue that I was feeling uneasy about in the voluntarist argument. To go into it requires a short trip into the land of developmental psychology. Here is a map of human individual and collective development, using the Spiral Dynamics model:

Moving from left to right, it proposes that as individuals we start at survival (like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and depending on our life conditions we develop more complex value systems as we grow. You can also trace this journey through our collective evolutionary story. We started in (Beige) survival clans, moved into (Purple) tribal order, then into (Red) feudal empires, from which emerged (Blue) nation states, which then engaged in (Orange) market-driven networks, following which (Green) harmony-driven values communities emerged, leading to the start of what we are now seeing in (Yellow) Integral initiatives to connect up the splintered dots to save humanity and the planet, and (Turquoise) experiences and expressions of the unity of the life process.

This collective journey we can see reflected in our development as individuals within whom these value systems will unfold as far as is useful for the life conditions that we find ourselves in. If you are in a war zone for example, the complexity involved in trying to take decisions that everyone can agree with (Green) would not serve you as well as the ability to organise effectively (Blue) and act with instinct and decisiveness (Red). From an individual perspective, these are coping mechanisms that evolve in us to help us deal with the world we experience around us.

In healthy development, each new stage would transcend the previous one, yet include the best of the past in an understanding that it has been our ability to solve certain problems in the past that has enabled us to get where we are now. The thing is, our individual and collective development doesn’t generally follow this neat and tidy path. The transitions from one level of development to the next are often fraught with struggle, pain and trauma. From a psychological perspective, this is where, instead of transcending and including our past, we often end up transcending but repressing it, due to how we may have had to struggle to move beyond it. This creates bits of our personality that are split off into our shadow, and that we bury deeply to avoid having to deal with. These bits however remain part of us and our journey, and will keep tugging at our sleeves and calling for attention until we bring them into the light to heal and integrate them. Any unintegrated history distorts the potentially healthy expression of future phases of development.

Why State has become Oppressor

So how does all this relate to the debate around nation states, stateless societies and voluntaryism? The main critique of the state is that its authority backed up by force suppresses the freedom of the individual. If we look at that from the developmental perspective as described in Spiral Dynamics, we could see it as being an expression of the Blue order-driven value system that is smothering the previous Red self-expression creative value system. In a healthy development, the Blue order system would have emerged to create just enough collective order so that the Red express-self for self-gain systems would be channeled in such a way as to make it possible for large numbers of people to live together in a safe and respectful way – but without giving people the feeling that their freedom was being removed and that they had to surrender control over their lives to a third party (as in a national government). Yet that does seem to be what has happened. The state has become over-controlling, impinging on our freedoms around what we do with any money we earn, how we educate our children and how we look after our bodies, to name a few fundamental examples. How could this have happened?

When we zoom out and look at the life process as a dynamic self-organising system, following a developmental pathway like the one described in Spiral Dynamics, then we would have to ask the question: why would the Blue order-driven system over-react to the extent it seems to have and create a suffocating system of control and regulation, rather than an empowering set of agreements that would enable everyone to express their unique gifts while living in relative peace with each other? Well, the answer is actually very simple. The only reason that the Blue order-driven system would develop in such an exaggerated way would be if the Red express-self system was so wild and unruly that the pendulum had to swing to a similar extreme on the other side to be able to control its energy. If we look at the period in our collective history post hunter-gatherer in the world of warlords and feudal empires, it is hardly a pretty picture of creative self-expression that is respectful of the instinctive knowing of interconnectedness and the focus on safety and life that came in the earlier Beige and Purple phases of our development. So we need to look deeper—what happened in that transition from hunter-gatherer to feudal empires? Or in our individual development—what happens in that transition from the baby’s experience of bonding with the parents and its safe family environment to the emergence of its sense of separate self, the ego?

The Pain

To summarise—what we have  is an over-controlling repressive Blue state that emerged to tame a life-destroying unruly Red mob, neither of which life would naturally have created if our development had followed a relatively harmonious pathway. Let’s start with our collective development first, as that creates the conditions for the developmental challenges we still have at the individual level. In what we call the West, a strange thing happened as we evolved from tribal based, instinctive hunter-gatherer societies who experienced time as cyclical, right-brain imagery as sacred and embodied experience as primary, into expansive feudal empires where time started to be seen as linear and more abstract thinking along with left-brain alphabetic literacy came to dominate (see The Alphabet vs the Goddess book for an excellent overview of this). For some reason, we were not able to contain the explosion of the Red express-self system in such a way as to be able to reintegrate our previous pre-rational journey of the senses. Instead of transcending yet including the previous phases—which would have given us a sense of separate self and the creative energy of our self-expression in the context of our sacred relationship with each other and the rest of life—we transcended and repressed that past, cutting ourselves off from the Earth, from our emotional intelligence, from our body and essentially from the feminine. Thus began the unbridled pillaging of the Earth on which we depend and the inhuman exploitation and irrational killing of our fellow men and women.

Ken Wilber describes this powerfully in his book Up from Eden:

The ego, in the necessary course of its emergence, had to break free of the Great Mother, a feat represented in the Hero Myths. But in its zeal to assert its independence, it not only transcended the Great Mother, which was desirable; it repressed the Great Mother, which was disastrous.It is one thing to gain freedom from nature, emotions, instincts, and environment – it is quite another to alienate them. The Western ego did not just gain its freedom from the Great Mother; it severed its deep interconnectedness with her.Up from Eden by Ken Wilber

We have therefore a civilisation that is unrooted from its embodied past, focused on separation and the “objective” world intelligible to the rational mind, and which has lost its ability to sense the relationships in the whole and feel the suffering that we inflict on other life forms. If this wasn’t the case, there is no way that we would have been able to do what we have done to each other and this planet that gave birth to us. Yet, deep in our beings, we know what we have done, we know it is wrong, and it hurts. It hurts so much, and facing it would have such massive consequences, that we bury it deeper inside and chase ever more distraction in the world outside of us.

It is no wonder that this collective trauma is being reflected in the way we grow up as individuals. Essentially, we try to get our children through those Beige-Purple sensitive phases of development as quickly as we can, as they remind us too strongly of the pain of our own separation—and we want to keep that buried as far away as possible. That tender bonding phase in the first couple of years that we know is so essential to the healthy development of all human beings, is usually aborted, as parents are encouraged to get back into the productive workforce as soon as possible and outsource their own nurturing to a third party childcare provider. In this way the economy benefits, as the parents get back to working and then use the income they make to pay the childcare provider. GDP grows as more money exchanges hands—and more tax is generated to feed the state. Tragically, this also usually feels like a relief to many parents—as generations of our families have passed on this deep collective trauma that has cut us off from our fundamental sense of safety, of belonging and of love.

The Promise

The question then arises for me – would you entrust a stateless society to a fundamentally wounded and traumatised collection of individuals who have lost their sense of innate interconnectedness with each other and their environment? It is of course not as black and white as that, and we soon get into a chicken-egg discussion. My main conclusion is that if we are to move towards a diminution of the state, an empowerment of the individual and a stimulation of voluntary collaboration (which I do believe is the ideal direction to go), it has to go hand in hand with a healing at both the individual and collective levels of the split that we all carry in us, that deep trauma of separation from all of our collective pasts and many of our individual childhoods, so that the expression of the self can happen in all its radiance held in the deep knowing of our interconnectedness, allowing the order mechanism to relax its grip from repressive state hierarchies into consensual agreements that enable us to live together as mature human beings while fully expressing our own uniqueness.

This I believe is the next phase of the journey that life is calling the human family to. The extent of our suffering in this great transition will largely depend on our ability to sink our roots deep into our past, reach for the inspiration of the heavens, open our hearts in all our vulnerability and compassion, and do what needs to be done. It’s time.

See also my book Why Work, and this article on how to build parallel local economies.

References

About Peter Merry

Peter has spent most of life involved in helping people to learn. From teaching in a secondary school in rural northern Ghana through to co-founding and leading an online global learning platform with Ubiquity University, he travelled via international youth work with the Council of Europe using experiential learning techniques such as interactive theatre to training CEOs and government Ministers. Peter is recognised as one of the world’s top experts on leadership.

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Exactly This Spot | How Air Is

Poem

Exactly This Spot | How Air Is


Exactly This Spot 

Everyone wonders why
I choose this seat in the
sunroom it’s kitty-corner
from the tv less comfortable
than the overstuffed and I’m
not too young for the rocker
“Want to sit here?” my wife
of wives offers her spot on
the couch and actually
means it my mother-in-love
sends generosity from her
recliner as if I’d ever “thanks”
I say “it’s all good” they think
I’m such a selfless guy they
don’t know because the sweet
suns of this room retire by nine
and then
through the unslid glass breezing
herself around the corner of the
breezeway comes the Moon
Shekinah-souled and Diana-drawn
like arched bow of delicious intent
she pours into the room gliding
toward exactly this spot each night
as if lightness were magnetized and
I was its allurement soft musk of
moonglow saturates space this
is its center and all the world
furnishes its slow circles around

…..“Nice makom you have here”
she beams.

(Makom: Hebrew, meaning “place” and “God”)


How Air Is

They fired me
and everything non-elemental
fell away the day lilies in the corner lot
said welcome home brother no spinning
or toiling here my stomach said if you’re
looking for the pit look somewhere else I have
a fear intolerance I expected panic
but got expectationlessness,
outcome turned to become.
they fired me, and I became incandescent
they ground me, and I turned earthen and
prime
they washed me away, and I found my own
level
they blew me apart, but you know how air is.

When I bowed and thanked them even
their toes smiled nervously.

About Wayne-Daniel Berard

Wayne-Daniel Berard, Ph.D., is an educator, poet, writer, shaman, and sage. His latest books of poetry include the full-length Art of Enlightenment and a chapbook Little Ghosts on Castle Floors, poems informed by the Potterverse, both with Kelsay Books. He is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry (www.soul-lit.com). Wayne-Daniel lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine.

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Eleanor on 72nd Street

Poem

Eleanor on 72nd Street


Eleanor on 72nd Street

We were playing chess
On a dry stone table.

She behind us, tall white elegant
A souvenir of heart on 72nd street.

Itinerant workers eat their fish rolls on the round
Under her feet after a morning on rusty hoists.

In the playground children swing to and fro
King to bishop, then the pawns––oh the pawns!

She speaks freely, fears no one, worships no man
Her tears dry as yesterday’s rain.

Her arms look long enough to embrace 8 billion
Who else has arms like that––

As resonant as the cure in any promise?
She believed it takes four wishes,

As surely as allegory shoves history along
After centuries of red herrings.

About Colin Greer

Colin Greer is President of the New World Foundation. He has published several social science books. He was a founding editor of Social Policy Magazine and Change Magazine, and wrote a column for Parade Magazine for almost 20 years. His poetry has been published in Kosmos Quarterly, Tikkun, and Hanging Loose. His third poetry collection, If But My Gaze Could Heal, was recently published by Lantern.

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The Rights of All Beings

Introduction Keynote

The Rights of All Beings


The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt’s four freedoms, outlines the rights to which humans are equally and inalienably entitled: of speech and religion, from want and fear. They are our global guiding principles for protecting humans from humans – essential in establishing the legal frameworks within which humanity can operate freely to express ourselves, move privately, own property, and gather lovingly.

Thomas Berry, the eco-spiritual visionary, found such declarations fundamentally flawed. They reserved all rights for humans and recognized none for nature. The great body of scientific inquiry uncovered a clear problem with this anthropocentric framework: there is a deep interconnectedness between all natural systems in which we humans are inseparably included. But operating freely in our own interest, disconnected from nature, we tend to pollute and disrupt the natural world.

Berry felt a new legal framework was necessary to avert the imminent collapse of natural ecosystems. He outlined the concept of “Earth Jurisprudence” that he hoped would be the guiding principle for a new ecozoic era of world history:

Every component of the Earth community, living and non-living has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat or a place to be, and the right to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community.

Principles like these inspired the development of the United Nations’ World Charter for Nature in 1982 and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010.

Such nature-focused guiding principles are foundational justice frameworks for the shift from the current global anthropocentric worldview to an ecocentric one. On their own however, they will do little to change human behavior. Cultural change requires much more. We need ecocentric economics, politics, education, art, spirituality, recreation, and health care. To shift our culture everyone must be a leader in making our own lives ecocentric expressions.

featured art by Sue Coccia

As a maker, forager, permaculturalist, and amateur naturalist I have been ecocentric in my approach to economics and recreation for over two decades. My wife and I grow or forage much of our own food and medicine, buy locally, build environmentally, mitigate household waste, and we are musicians and artists where nature is central to our self-expression. However for much of our lives, these various interests and behaviors lacked an organizing principle that gave them cohesion.

Something changed when we began practicing meditation and relationship yoga after our third devastating miscarriage in 2017. We made a habit of listening to secular spiritual teachers such as Adyashanti, Ram Dass, and Alan Watts. Together we became aware of our conditioning and our respective suppressed and repressed experiences and traits. We began experiencing an abiding transcendent presence and the ecstatic feeling of unitive consciousness.

I am the second youngest in a deeply Christian family of 7 children. My oldest brother is a secular Franciscan, and he also recently found abiding presence after a period of despair at the dissolution of his marriage. During the pandemic we started a book club together where we read C.G. Jung, Richard Rohr, Barbara Holmes, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book club provided a safe space to discuss our feelings and thoughts around religion, history, spirituality, and consciousness. It operated implicitly on the four freedoms; we could say whatever we felt, needed, or feared. In that space I discovered I was consistently dismissing religious symbolism out of fear.

My own parents were deeply affected by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, of which I became a collateral victim. Under duress of their own fears, my parents read us bedtime stories about the eternal abandonment of hell. My response was to categorically reject all things religious. What I found through our book club was the gravitational center that brought my various interests into a meaningful constellation. I learned what it was I had been missing: myth. The numinous story of what it means to be an ecocentric participant in the Great Work.

Thomas Berry knew that we’d need new myths to carry us into the ecozoic era, but I was unable to appreciate what that might look like, in part because I was viewing myth through the lens of fact and fiction which is a common cultural misconception. In an age of empiricism, the mythic mode of human thought had been denigrated the lesser form of knowledge, the dangerous or mysterious form of human decision making, a relic mentality from the dark ages. It is not without good reason; history is full of dangerous beliefs leading to violence from one community over another.

From the collective perspective, it seems undeniable that we utilize some combination of mythic storytelling, meditative practices, numinous symbols, and ritual as a gravitational force for organizing human communities. Shared beliefs dispel anxieties and allow the human imagination to lift upward toward fresh ideas and innovation.

In her writings, Karen Armstrong meditates on the push and pull of mythic belief. She outlines a history of the human imagination that utilizes myth as an organizing art form in response to technological innovation and its resulting cultural fallout. Mythic systems that worked for hunter-gatherers failed to meet the existential needs of agrarian society and new mythic systems sprung from the tension. The era of empire then created fresh conflict that birthed the world’s classical religious and philosophical traditions, resulting in our current era of science, free markets, and humanism. The stories that carried us here -myths of progress, human exceptionalism, personal salvation, and objectification of nature – resulted in ecological catastrophe. We are alone now, in danger, and the key to survival as a species is to gather and make myth.

Bill Plotkin, in Nature and the Human Soul, presents a model for ecocentric human growth, culminating in realizing everything’s “ultimate place in the world.” One cannot find oneself separate from anything. Yet we are unique in how we participate in the universe. Everything provides a connective function. The new mythic imagination utilizes this realization to ascribe sacredness to every manifestation of the universe, ourselves included. In doing so we create a sense of gratitude and service to the protection and conservation of nature. We become The Great Work.

In the new myth, the concept of faith might come to mean trusting that in a state of abiding presence the universe is acting through us on behalf of itself. As such, being present is a holy and sacred act, wherein we proceed in faith that we are the universe becoming – as opposed to acting on behalf of ego for anthropocentric ends. When we act in alignment with the universe, we are making our own unique contribution to the wholeness of it. Each cultural artifact we make adds to the growing collection of mythic expressions. Just as the universe has taught us – dust added to dust increases the gravitational pull.

 

Artwork: Northwest artist Sue Coccia is from Edmonds, Washington. She has a formal art background, however it is a deep love of all animals that sparks her work with a unique style. She started selling her art in 1996 as EarthArt International with a portion of her proceeds being donated to wildlife conservation organizations. Her drawings are first done in pen and ink, then meticulously painted with acrylics. The drawings depict animals from around the world. The totems reflect a deep spirituality, and when we begin to understand and respect their individual qualities and strengths, we realize we are all connected.

About Eric J. Krans

Eric Krans lives on Mohican ancestral land in upstate New York where he and his wife Jen O’Connor, are growers and makers of botanical products at The Kirk Estate and musicians in the dream-pop band The Parlor, as well as the minimalist neo-classical project John John The Baptist. The Parlor is releasing a new album in May 2023 called You Are Love And I Am You. It rejoices in the ecstasy of unitive consciousness and the great relief in realizing the mistaken belief that we are separate from the vast unfolding universe.

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Caged

Poem

Caged


Caged

there……through bamboo….scrub…..palm
the tiger prowls……up/across/down
the terraced hill…..focused…..and predictable
sloughing…..anxiety off……his muscled back
off the side-to-side…..sweep……of his head
my camera waits…..waits…..waits……to catch
him in…..a slice of light……but without……a hint
he charges…..the fence……bared fangs….snarling
across the path…..to fields……where languid stripes
lounge in sun…..mother/daughter/sister/peer…..smug
and unperturbed…..posing…..for crowds charmed
by mesmerizing eyes…..awed…..by the art
of her orange/black/white…..without a chuffle
or growl…..she basks…..in reverence
I grab…..my camera…..sweep it…..side to side
from the anguish…..behind wire mesh…..to surrender
lying…..in the grass…..unnatural…..this life…..like innocents
trapped on death row…..or refugeesin border towns
they say…..Sumatrans can survive…..a decade longer
in captivityat what cost….I shout at
the unfettered sky….who…..calculates the price

About Carolyn Martin

Blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red penciled “extremely maudlin,” she is amazed she has continued to write. Her poems have appeared in more than 175 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. For more information, go to www.carolynmartinpoet.com.

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With Four Freedoms, Four Responsibilities

Article Human Rights

With Four Freedoms, Four Responsibilities


In the United States and around the world, our democratic values and institutions face direct and dire threats.

Untold millions fear persecution for their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, their gender identity. Others simply fear for their lives. In some countries, authoritarian governments seek to stamp out democratic freedoms, like the rights to protest or to a free press. Even democratically elected governments are acting to restrict these freedoms amidst a rise of tribalism and xenophobia. The moral leadership of the United States has all but disappeared from view.

Given the grueling pace of the news —amidst constant chaos—the windows for slow and steady reflection feel few and far between. Indeed, these days, chaos has become a kind of ambient noise, and it feels hard to make sense of it all—hard to know how to move forward. After all, we are charging full steam ahead into the unknown. It is not frivolous, or naïve, to stop and contemplate the fact that democracy itself is imperiled for the first time in at least a generation.

As I write this, I am acutely aware that all these coalescing crises share a single, protean cause: inequality. They claim for themselves similar, often related victims, too: civility, empathy, and justice. And it’s not only economic inequality or racial inequality, but also geographic and cultural inequality that causes whole communities and regions to feel ignored and abandoned, if not outright persecuted.

Subject to countless historical examples, we know that the greatest danger to democracy is not terrorism, nor environmental crisis, nor nuclear proliferation, nor the results of any one election. The greatest danger to democracy is hopelessness: the hopelessness of many millions who express themselves with their ballots, and the hopelessness of many millions more who express themselves by not voting at all. This hopelessness is yet another symptom of the inequality that has eaten away at our norms and eroded the bridges of common cause—the very bonds of goodwill that ought to bring us together and help us confront our shared challenges.

Despite what feel like wholly unprecedented circumstances, however, democracy is no stranger to trials from within and without. And so, of late, I have felt reassured by how another great American generation responded to the greatest threat to democracy of the previous century: the Second World War.

Wisdom from the past

Imagine the early days of 1941, another moment when chaos abounded.

The effects of financial crisis a decade earlier continued to reverberate around the United States and afflict the American people. Across the Atlantic, a hateful demagogue came to power by democratic means, and his rise and racist policies threatened the safety of his people. The United States turned inward—many of its citizens unwilling to recognize what was happening in the world. In some corners of our nation, factions called for isolation, while others supported more virulent strains of nationalism—all as allies pleaded for American leadership and assistance.

Amidst these somewhat familiar circumstances, President Franklin D. Roosevelt crafted his annual message to the U.S. Congress. In this address, he laid out the Four Freedoms, which read:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—
everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world. 1

With this idea, President Roosevelt did something that, at the time, was rather remarkable—he asked Americans to implicate themselves in the struggles of their fellow human beings.

During the decades since, these Four Freedoms—and this formulation of essential democratic values—have become iconic. They inspired four of Norman Rockwell’s most famous paintings. Their influence also stretches far beyond the United States or American culture; these same freedoms open the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These Four Freedoms reflect the urgency of their particular moment in history as well as the timeless values and aspirations our society should pursue.

What appears to be implicit in Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, and necessary for our democracy today, is an understanding of our responsibilities to protect and extend these freedoms—everywhere in the world and for one another.

We know that these freedoms do not happen by themselves. In the United States, they are the product of revolution and protest, of conversation and compromise, of constant stumbling progress toward an exceptional ideal. And as citizens and participants in our society, we all have a role to play in not just exercising our own freedom, but also creating the conditions—and the country—where everyone can exercise those freedoms equally.

In other words, “We the People” means that my freedom depends on your freedom. Similarly, if freedom for one of us is removed or restricted, it jeopardizes freedom for us all—and for the larger democratic principles we all hold dear. That’s why, when we live in a free society, we are charged with protecting freedom for one another through our responsibilities to one another.

Our Four Responsibilities

In the case of the Four Freedoms, therefore, I argue that each freedom contains within it a corresponding responsibility—an action demanded of us as creators and stewards of our democratic society. These can be summarized simply:

With the freedom of speech
comes the responsibility to listen.

With the freedom of belief
comes the responsibility to accept.

With the freedom from want
comes the responsibility to serve.

And with the freedom from fear
comes the responsibility to act.

What’s more, these four responsibilities do not exist in a vacuum or independently of one another. Just as each of the Four Freedoms has its complement, so do each of our responsibilities complement the others. If we commit ourselves to listening, we will be more likely to accept others. If we commit ourselves to accepting others, we will be more likely to serve those who need us. And if we commit ourselves to service, we will understand how we should act.

And if we’re going to act, we must act now.

It is incumbent upon each of us, as willing and humble participants in our democratic system, to maintain and expand the freedoms that enable the world’s longest-standing liberal democracy, and to ensure its success both now and in the future.

I wrote this volume for everyone: to encourage each of us to reflect on our responsibilities—the fulfillment of which our freedoms require and our democracy demands.

Excerpts from Four Essays on the Four Freedoms, by Darren Walker

With Freedom of Speech, Responsibility to Listen

“We tend to curate the information that comes our way, while social and commercial media try to give us what they think we want. We engage with stories that confirm our assumptions and biases, that do not challenge or expand our view of the world. Online monologues allow their writers to dig deeper and deeper into their own thoughts without considering the views of others. We become more entrenched in our own views. In some cases, it is almost as if we’re just talking to ourselves.

As this happens, the algorithms figure out what we want, what is comfortable, and they just keep feeding us more of the same. Our confirmation bias compounds on itself. Meanwhile, alternative media outlets sow doubt and confusion based on what they want us to believe—even if it is not true. In the process, our common ground gets eroded, and one of free speech’s most potent uses—as a check on power, often in the form of journalism—becomes undervalued.

For our freedom of speech to work—to have meaning or the power to improve our democracy—we need to listen to one another.

In fact, we have a responsibility to listen, because listening allows us to extend the freedom of speech to others. This is why the right to assemble is so closely linked to the right to free speech. They share an amendment because speech is meaningless without an audience.

Without a congregation of listeners, there’s no difference between the preacher on a Sunday morning and the subway platform. Without a jury of open-minded and engaged listeners, or an attentive judge, or proper accountability, a trial becomes less just. If our elected officials do not consider the opinions of their constituents, then our political speech does little to advance our interests. Without the backing of a country or a congress, women’s suffrage does not achieve the Nineteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights movement does not pass necessary legislation or change minds and hearts, and the movement for marriage equality is stymied. Today, without people willing to listen to the legitimate grievances of a movement like Black Lives Matter—if the country chooses only to look away or to reflexively argue—people of color will continue to die at the hands of police while the deeper structural problems remain unaddressed.

So, when we listen to each other, we do more than extend a common courtesy; we give credence and power to that first and sacred right. We say, “You are a human, too, and deserve to be heard.” We give dignity to others when we enable their voices, consider their perspectives, and thoughtfully grapple with their ideas. We participate in the ongoing exchange between people that defines our democracy, and allow ideas and actions to ripple through, even renovate, our society.”

With Freedom of Belief, Responsibility to Accept

“…When we talk about the responsibility to accept that comes with our freedom of belief, we are saying something very specific.

We have to accept that we have different beliefs. This is decidedly different from accepting the beliefs themselves. Our task is narrower, though perhaps more difficult: we just need to accept that the differences are real—and a source of strength, not weakness.

What does that look like?

It means appreciating the perspectives of immigrants and indigenous peoples, and respecting the grievances of poor people regardless of their color. It means understanding the effects of inequality on our society, the pain and anger of people who feel vulnerable—or who feel as though the world has left them behind. But it also means putting in the time to understand people who see the world through different eyes, whether that means they grew up Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, in a big city or a tiny town.

It also means never shutting anyone out or shutting them down. That is a form of giving up, or giving in to the idea that America can’t succeed. If we rejected people every time we disagreed, our democracy would not—and could not—sustain itself.

Again, let me be clear: accepting others doesn’t mean denying our differences. It actually means the opposite. We know it is never solely our differences that are the problem. As one of my sheroes, the poet Audre Lorde, once wrote:

Certainly, there are very real differences between us, of race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions that result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation. 24

We need to accept that difference has always been a part of our American experiment—for better and for worse. We must make an effort to accept and understand that difference, not ignore it.

…Sometimes this work comes naturally. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes we feel that we are learning and moving in the right direction. Sometimes it is tough to stomach that people can believe something so hateful—that they can seriously wish to divide us based on difference.

But if our nation’s history includes chapters when we have mobilized against each other, it also includes chapters when we mobilized with each other and for each other. For as Dr. King reminds us in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.'”‘25

With Freedom from Want, Responsibility to Serve

“When President Roosevelt defined freedom from want, he included, in part, the ability to achieve what he called “a healthy peacetime life.” That “healthy peacetime life” means security and contentment—which is precisely why so many people from around the world are drawn to live and work in the United States.

There are plenty of people across this country and around the world who do not enjoy the “healthy peacetime life” that flows out of the freedom from want. On the streets of Chicago, people yearn for an end to violence and for economic opportunity. In the mountains of Appalachia, poverty keeps families trapped, generation after generation. On tribal lands across the American West, freedom from want remains another unfulfilled promise.

Expand our view, and the same is true in places across the world—from the Kibera areas of Nairobi to the favelas of São Paulo—and for too many people forced to flee their homes throughout Latin America and Syria.

In these places, and many others, we all have the responsibility to serve. Otherwise, that grander bargain we made with one another—the social contract that lives in America’s founding documents and holds us all together—starts to unravel. As inequality grows, our agreement with ourselves and one another comes undone.

This inequality not only incites animosity and strife within communities; it threatens the very institutions of our democracy. A democratic society cannot truly flourish if the people, or any subset of the people, do not believe they have equal access to its freedoms, opportunities, and resources. To create the conditions for our democracy to be healthy and vibrant—to continue and thrive—we must root out the inequality that undermines our success. And to do that, we must first accept and embrace the responsibility we have to serve one another, to reach across society’s many gaps and aid those who are grappling with the debilitating consequences of inequity.

Given the many kinds of want and the many forms of inequality that exist in our communities, we must be prepared to remedy them with different types of service. Each of us has a responsibility to determine how we can best serve each other.

For some, this may mean volunteering in local schools and community centers, or mentoring young, at-risk children in desperate need of encouragement and inspiration. For others, it may mean directly engaging with the philanthropic work being done by countless organizations throughout the country and around the world. The service we can contribute is often directly proportional to the amount of privilege we have—be that the time, the talent, or the treasure we have to give.”

With Freedom from Fear, Responsibility to Act

“Throughout history, there has been no better guardian of the freedom from fear—no better defender of the vulnerable—than civil society: groups of compassionate, engaged citizens who continue to organize themselves and mobilize others to work on behalf of the community. They are the immune system of our democratic society against the plague of injustice.

Among the most troubling trends in the world today is the outright assault and ongoing onslaught against civil society. It is an epidemic. In the countries where the Ford Foundation works, we have seen laws that restrict NGO funding and freedom of assembly, and learned of activists and peaceful protestors being assaulted and worse.

Still, around the world, civil society organizations continue to act against fear, and fight to protect the rights and freedoms of those in need.

In the favelas of Brazil, where black men are routinely killed by police, organizations like Redes da Maré are bringing the community together to denounce the violence and raise their collective voice.

In the courtrooms of Zimbabwe, where unjustly incarcerated demonstrators face persecution and prosecution, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is providing emergency legal support.

In the streets of Uganda, where the LGBT community has been oppressed by the government, organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda have risen to challenge unjust laws and defend human rights, despite personal risk. It is the same with Planned Parenthood right here at home.

And after a year of increasing nuclear threats, and in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s original intention—the “world-wide reduction of armaments”—the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a group of more than one hundred civil society organizations acting against fear.

All these brave men and women speak truth to power. They forge relationships with local communities and understand their concerns. By taking action, they make people feel less vulnerable. Instead of succumbing to fear, they act in spite of it, and create the conditions so that others might be free from it.”

Access the full essays HERE. Reprinted courtesy, The Ford Foundation

About Darren Walker

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $16 billion international social justice philanthropy with offices in the United States and ten regions around the globe. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion desi/gnated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.

Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first class of Head Start in 1965 and received his bachelor’s and law degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, which in 2009 recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award—its highest alumni honor. He has been included on numerous leadership lists, including TIME’s annual 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Ebony’s Power 100, and Out magazine’s Power 50. Most recently, Darren was named Wall Street Journal’s 2020 Philanthropy Innovator.

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Searching for a more beautiful world, with Charles Eisenstein

Conversation Living Earth

Searching for a more beautiful world, with Charles Eisenstein


featured image | Alex Grichenko

From a young age, Charles Eisenstein has felt something was fundamentally wrong with our world or, more specifically, with the social and political realities we have built. My intuitions — my heart- and gut-based modes of understanding — have been cultivated by Eisenstein’s work. Yet, his work is not anti-rational. He has a strong background in analytical methods, mathematics and philosophy. We conducted the following interview by email.

Tam | Let’s start with your background and motivations for your work. You went to Yale for your undergraduate studies and focused on mathematics and philosophy. Your first major book (2007) was The Ascent of Humanity, which you suggest in that book itself was a work that took a decade or more to research and write. What inspired this effort? Who are the major thinkers you looked to in forming your ideas?

Charles | That book embodies at least a decade of study and thought, but I was actively writing it for just four years. Some key influences were Wendell Berry, Ilya Prigogine, Lewis Mumford, Marshall Sahlins, David Bohm, Helena Nordberg-Hodge, Lynn Margulis… I could name some others, but really this is not primarily a scholarly book, and the list of influences won’t help much to understand it.

Tam | You write in the introduction to your 2013 book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible that you are an ordinary person and if you, an ordinary person, can seek and achieve these insights and these practices in your life, then almost anyone should be able to. I don’t wish to detract from your efforts to paint yourself as an ordinary guy but it seems pretty clear that you have spent an extraordinary amount of time reading, researching and writing about a vast number of topics, from spirituality, to economics, to science, to climate, to currencies, to political movements. Doesn’t the effort you’ve expended in itself make you at least a little extraordinary?

Charles | Sure, why not. My point, though, is that the insights didn’t come from a dramatic life story or unusual discipline. They are quite close at hand for ordinary people, because really what I am doing is to give voice to a new mythology that is rising in the collective consciousness.

Tam | How would you sum up the key points of your work? Despite the breadth of issues you’ve written and spoken about, there is a theme that runs through your work. You write very accessibly and your target audience seems to be anyone who wishes to listen (rather than writing for a niche field of professionals, for example). Why have you chosen to write for the “everyperson” rather than more niche audiences?

Charles | The overarching theme of all my work is the transition in civilization’s defining mythology, from a story of separation to a story of interbeing. This transition plays out in all the fields I write about, and provides a way to identify common patterns across those fields. Because I am what you might call a “generalist,” my work is accessible to laypeople. I am myself a layperson, albeit highly educated in certain fields.

Tam | You moved to Taiwan in your 20s, studied Chinese, and worked as a translator for some years. What caused your life to take this particular turn? Are you still conversant in Mandarin?

Charles | Yes, I am still fluent in Mandarin, although I seldom have opportunity to speak and have forgotten a lot in the 25 years since I lived there. I went to Taiwan right out of college, because I felt like such an alien in my home country, and I couldn’t make myself get with the program. I had no ambition whatever to become a success, build my resume, go to graduate school, or anything like that. Furthermore, living abroad gave me the opportunity to discover who I was apart from the reinforcing circumstances of my home culture.

Tam | How much does your fluency in another language and culture, quite different than US culture, influence your thinking and willingness to propose ideas that are radically different than the mainstream?

Charles | Well, there are certainly plenty of multilingual people around, and not all of them are creative thinkers. But I think in my case, immersing in a radically different language and culture prevented my intellectual programming from calcifying. I was introduced to entirely new categories of thought before the old ones had fully formed.

I also have to credit psychedelic medicines for exposing the narrowness and artificiality of what I’d until then accepted as real. They helped open my mind to different ways of conceiving and perceiving the world that local traditions of Buddhism and Taoism offered. I never studied either deeply, but they suffused the cultural atmosphere and influenced me profoundly, particularly Taoism.

One influence I can say that Chinese has had on my later work is that it helped me work more comfortably with paradox. It is in many ways a less precise language than English; the same is true of the various Taoist sciences. You don’t start with basic definitions and first principles and work your way up from those. Taoism applies a more holistic logic and employs more teleological thinking. To some extent, this is embodied in the Chinese language too. Grammar is more fluid, words can morph from one part of speech to another, and the “atoms” of the language are semantic and not alphabetic. Aphabetic languages offer a model of reality in which meaning is an illusion. Just as meaningful words are composed of meaningless letters, so also is the meaningful world composed of meaningless protons, neutrons, and electrons. Chinese is not like that: meaning in Chinese is elemental. Perhaps these feature of the Chinese language primed me to explore non-reductionistic thinking and the relationship between story and reality in my later work.

Tam | Were you always comfortable with being considered a radical? In my own experience studying various fields and finding myself coming to very different conclusions than the mainstream I’ve realized that there must be significant other factors than logic or evidence influencing whatever ideas or theories are most prominent — because so many of them just don’t make sense under scrutiny. I’ve thus found myself comfortable with being in many ways “on the fringe” but it’s not something I sought out. Have you experienced a similar dynamic in your intellectual meanderings?

Charles | I have long and frequently felt a bit of an alien here. Until recently, that has mostly meant being ignored and dismissed, a mostly benign neglect outside the corner of the culture that comprises my readers. That has changed with the pandemic, when ideas that I’ve written about for years all of a sudden attracted much more attention, much of it hostile. For example, in The Ascent of Humanity there is a section titled “The War on Germs,” in which I located conventional medicine within larger paradigms of conquest and offered quite specific critique of certain medical practices. But it was only in the last two years that such views drew public denunciation and cancelation — including by the very publisher who now carries that book. If I may flatter myself to say that my views are true, I can only hope that they exemplify Schopenhauer’s adage: “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Tam | You describe in your work how you’ve had a feeling of discontent and of fundamental wrongness with modern society from an early age. When did these feelings and realizations first happen to you?

Charles | It began very early on in grade school. I couldn’t have articulated the feeling at the time, but I just couldn’t accept my situation as good and right, sitting in rows in the classroom, forced to do things I didn’t care about, filling out worksheet after worksheet, watching the clock tick slowly toward recess. I was quite timid, but I remember secretly siding with the “bad” kids and glorying in their insubordination.

As a teenager, I began encountering books that fueled my latent indignation. I read Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, and so forth. I knew then that I wasn’t crazy for believing something was fundamentally wrong in the world. I also began to suspect that the origin of the wrongness was much deeper than anyone knew. That is how I became a radical.

Tam | Shifting to less personal questions, how do you respond to the Pinkerian argument that the Enlightenment has improved the world in countless ways? Pinker has argued in two hefty books (The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now) that the Enlightenment way of thinking, led by science and reason, has indeed led to a vastly better world in numerous quantifiable ways. He presents data in dozens of categories showing that the world is far better off in terms of declining violence, longer lifespans, better standard of living, access to health care, declining child death and death of mothers during birth, etc. You of course paint a very different picture in your work, of a world on a fundamentally wrong track. So what does Pinker get wrong or leave out?

Charles | I could answer by pointing you to an essay I wrote in response to Pinker: Our New, Happy Life? The Ideology of Development. It is not possible to rebut his thesis in a few short paragraphs, when such a rebuttal requires overturning deeply held assumptions. His book was so readily celebrated by powerful people in the establishment because it feels so commonsensical to them, drawing on assumptions they take for granted.

That said, I can point to several lines of critique. First, the chosen measures of well-being are loaded with the values and assumptions of the very culture (ours) that is assessing progress and naming itself as the most advanced. So for example, Pinker talks a lot about life expectancy, but what about quality of life in those longer years? Is it any improvement to have to manage chronic disease or live in a nursing home, lonely and depressed? Other authors have also questioned Pinker’s metrics on their own terms: Is society actually less violent than it was in Medieval or pre-historic times? Or has the form of violence merely shifted? Thirdly, I and many other people who have spent time in less “developed” places on earth have witnessed levels of well-being and happiness seldom seen in modern society.

We have more and more of everything we measure, as the immeasurable, the qualitative, ebbs out of modern life. We then seek yet more of the quantitative in futile compensation for its loss.

One very concrete way this plays out is in the mania for safety that I first noticed in the wave of litigiousness in the 1980s, that accelerated after 9/11 into a national obsession, and then reached hysterical proportions in the Covid era. Each security measure makes us safer. You can measure it. Keeping kids indoors in front of screens, making borders “secure,” locking down all of society. And what does safety compensate for? A life of meaning and purpose. Cut off from that, there is nothing left but to stay alive.

Tam | You write in The Ascent of Humanity about the commodification and monetization of the world through a steady reduction of services provided by friends, family and community in favor of companies providing these services for a fee. For example, childcare, birthing, and laundry used to be performed by families and friends but now in the case of many modern families are done by paid third parties. You warn about the loss of community and family ties because of this vast commodification and monetization of the world. What practical ways do we have to reverse this trend?

Charles | I’ll answer this question on a personal and political level. On the personal level, we can look at our lives and ask what part we can reclaim from money, what we can bring back into the realm of community, self-sufficiency, or gift? Or you could approach it as a shift of dependency away from markets toward people we actually know. Some things may not make sense right now to change, but maybe you’ll recognize that the time is ripe to plant a garden, or start a homeschool co-op or babysitting co-op or play group, or to replace on-screen entertainment with regular musical gatherings with friends.

On the political level, we can reverse policies that destroy community. In many cases, because of licensing requirements, building codes, and so forth, it is actually illegal to do things we once did for each other. Regulations that protect us from unscrupulous big corporations also make it difficult for small, family-run farms and businesses to operate. Furthermore, any policy that shifts economic activity from a local to a global scale will damage community, because even when money is used to facilitate local transactions, something else happens along with money exchange.

People interact with each other locally — more at the small food co-op than at the Wal-Mart grocery story, and more at the Wal-Mart than if they order groceries online. Our system has all kinds of hidden subsidies that promote delocalization and expansion of scale. We can shift those subsidies to support localism.

Tam | Why do you focus on beauty as such an important aspect of life, and of what’s missing in our modern world, with its “uglification” and industrialization of so much around us?

Charles | Beauty is one of those things we cannot quantify, and therefore which fits poorly into conventional economic thinking. Money logic is good at maximizing efficiency, which is actually maximizing something measurable. For example, it produces large buildings cheaply.

I focus on beauty a lot because it offers such a clear example of our poverty. The beauty lens makes it obvious that financial thinking, and quantitative thinking generally, is incapable of producing certain things that the human soul requires. What does the world need most right now? Is it more?

Tam | Is it practical to suggest that performing mundane acts like laundry, yard work, or changing diapers should be viewed as sacred tasks, as ways of creating a more beautiful world, as you suggest in your work?

Charles | Well, our society little celebrates such activities, and our economy hardly rewards them. Yet, they require a lot of patience and humility. We need people to do such things with care and devotion, at least as much as we need people to invent new machines and build new organizations. Neither is more sacred than the other. However, I’m not suggesting that some people should spend their whole lives changing diapers and doing laundry. Calling such activities “sacred” is not a way to justify an unfair, exploitative division of labor. It is rather the opposite. If we as a society hold those activities as worthy, then no one will believe themselves to be above such things.

Ultimately, I am advocating a reversal of an age-old prejudice, which values the abstract over the concrete, the spirit over the flesh, and the spiritual over the material. This anti-materialism has caused tremendous harm to materiality; that is, to nature. Part of recovering from the spell of money (which is itself an abstraction of value) is to re-value the material, the soil, the flesh, the living, and the human.

Tam | Do you ever tear up at witnessing a particularly beautiful sight or moment or idea?

Charles | Yes. What affects me the most is to witness generosity, kindness, and selflessness. Like when a small child shares with another.

Tam | You mention in The More Beautiful World… how a lot of people have seemed for some time to somewhat perversely be looking forward to normal life and society breaking down, in whatever manner comes along, like an alcoholic needs to truly bottom out before seeking help, or like the necessary flames before the rebirth of the phoenix from the ashes. I wonder how much of this notion affected your attempts to discern your personal response to the pandemic and lockdowns in those early months of 2020 before you wrote the Coronation essay and established yourself as more of a Covid skeptic, at least in terms of seeing the world’s seeming over-reactions to the virus as part of a very long historic arc toward power seeking more power and control?

Charles | I think that the public’s willingness to accept lockdowns and in general the break in normal life is that they wanted liberation from normality. A lot of people in modern society feel trapped in their lives, and here was deliverance. Or so it seemed.

In fact, the hoped-for freedom did not materialize. The regime of control only intensified.

Tam | Klaus Schwab, author of The Great Reset and founder of the World Economic Forum, has a new book out called The Great Narrative, a compilation of many different authors’ ideas about how our global civilization should arise from the ashes of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, it present a rather different “great narrative” than the Story of Interbeing that you have offered for a new Age of Reunion. Have you considered engaging with these kinds of leaders in order to seed fresh thinking, from a perspective of Reunion rather than Separation? If Schwab invited you to speak at Davos would you attend?

Charles | I have not read the book, but from what I’ve seen of the Great Reset, I think it is a mix of good and bad ideas, or at least some of the ideas come from a good motivation. For example, the idea that “you will own nothing and be happy” is actually a reference to the leasing economy, where instead of buying a washing machine you buy the use of the machine, which gives manufacturers an incentive to make it durable and reparable. The main problem in the kind of ideas that come out of the World Economic Forum is that they invariably put more power in the hands of centralized institutions and the elites that run them. Many of the ideas would be quite good if they could be liberated from that. For example, a universal basic income would be great if it didn’t come with dependency on a government that could take it away if, for example, you espouse subversive ideas.

In any case, if I were invited to speak to them I certainly would. I don’t think we should ever write someone off as irredeemably evil. On some level, these elites long for the same thing we all do, subject to their own particular blinders. I would speak to the part of them that also seeks a more beautiful world.

Tam | If you had the resources of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos what would you do?

Charles | If I had those resources, neither I nor the world would be as they are right now. I would have to be someone I am not. Or, the world that would put such resources in my hands would uphold different values than it does now. In the former case, I would probably do not much different than those two do. In the latter case, I wouldn’t need those resources to begin with.

Tam | Making it more concrete, what if one of these men (or someone similarly wealthy) was so inspired by your ideas that they decided to give you access to $1 billion and hired a team of people to work under your guidance to implement your vision?

Charles | I still question whether this would be the best use of my time; however, I’ll play along with your game. I have a vision called The Institute for Technologies of Reunion. It funds and develops various technologies that draw from and contribute to a new story. Some of them are quite mundane; for example, regenerative agriculture and ecological restoration practices. So I might fund young farmers who want to transition to regenerative farming. There are already organizations doing that, such as the Agrarian Trust. Other technologies are social, for example various kinds of conflict resolution practices. Then there is the realm of physical and emotional healing, using modalities that don’t fit into current medical paradigms or medical funding systems. Beyond that, I would host R&D on unconventional methods of energy production, mind-body technologies, and esoteric practices.

Tam | Getting a little more into the weeds, I want to ask whether you’ve considered the merits of panpsychism (see Skrbina’s Panpsychism in the West, Griffin’s Unsnarling the World-knot, or Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind) as an alternative to the return to animism you sometimes suggest in your work could/should be the basis for a new story of interbeing, a story in which all parts of the world have some degree of consciousness? Whereas animism seems to return us to a kind of prerational/romantic state, would you agree that panpsychism offers us a scientifically and philosophically defensible foundational philosophy that may perform the same spiritual function you hope for animism to achieve (I’ve argued this in my book, Mind, World, God)? Panpsychism does indeed seem to be catching on in philosophical and scientific circles in the last couple of decades.

Charles | I would say that I am a panpsychist, yes. I articulated that position quite early in my career in my first book, The Ascent of Humanity. I believe that the distinction between panpsychism and animism is mostly academic, and that the views of ancient and indigenous philosophers were and are a lot more sophisticated than we may give them credit for. I also reject the Spiral Dynamics thinking that locates our own civilization at a higher point of evolution than other cultures, and fancies itself to have “included and transcended” them. Along a certain axis of development this may be true, but it applies a cultural blindness to the many ways that a society can evolve and advance. To call animistic cultures pre-rational or romantic is a modern conceit. I suggest reading Graeber & Wengrow’s description in The Dawn of Everything of how modern notions of a liberal society such as liberty and equality originated in the critiques of North American philosophers such as Kandiaronk, who profoundly influenced Jesuit missionaries and other colonizers, and whose critiques found their way into the writings of philosophers like John Locke, Rousseau, and so forth. Anyway, I don’t think animism is essentially different from panpsychism. The latter is more a translation of animism into modern conceptual idiom.

Tam | You paint a nuanced view of technology, highlighting its ability (already realized in so many ways) to make problems worse through unwise “technofixes,” but also suggesting that there may indeed be “technologies of Reunion” that may bring us more quickly into the Age of Reunion you call for. Can you offer some rules of thumb on how to make this key kind of discernment about the role of new technologies in our lives?

Charles | The key differentiating principle is that Technologies of Reunion are not based on control. What we call technology today is a system for applying force to matter with ever greater precision. The dream is that if we could only control every atom in the world, in our own bodies and brains, etc., if we could only quantify and manipulate everything in the material and social world, we could engineer paradise. Well, no matter how far we develop our ability to control the world, paradise remains on the horizon, as far away as ever. (The same is true on the personal level when we try to control other people in our lives.)

In contrast, Technologies of Reunion draw on an understanding that the world is alive, that there are intelligences beyond the human, and that by participating in these intelligences we can co-achieve miraculous results. For example, technologies of control try to perfect agricultural yields by precisely controlling every component of the soil, eliminating weeds and pests, and so forth. Technologies of Reunion seek to support the aliveness of the soil, listening and observing it as a living being, asking what it needs, trusting that its thriving is connected to our own.

Tam | You have a rare talent of provoking reconsideration of seemingly bedrock aspects of one’s worldview. Reading your work has provoked a lot of soul-searching in me and many of your readers. I and my academic colleagues recently developed a framework that could in theory lead to the quantification of consciousness (a “psychometer”) in whatever physical structures are being considered (animals, plants, robots, stars, etc.) There are some pretty obvious benefits of having this kind of technology but also potential downsides. Would you say that having a more or less reliable psychometer would fall in the “technology of reunion” category, or not so much?

Charles | Such devices can be fun and illuminating, but we must approach them with humility. A key precept of the modern world and its scientific view is that, in principle, everything that is real can be quantified, measured and counted. According to that precept, if consciousness is real it can be measured too. (Also, whatever can be measured may also be controlled; we have subsumed it within our own system of numbers and categories; we have domesticated it.) Humility suggests that there are real things that will always escape quantification. We can work with them, we can understand them, but we can never pin them down or reduce them to number (which is a fundamental form of conquest). So whatever you are measuring with your psychometer, please understand that it won’t include everything that consciousness is. Be aware as well that whatever it leaves out may correspond to social and ecological prejudices and power relationships.

Tam | Are psychedelics a “technology of reunion”?

Charles | Yes and no. Just because something is a technology of reunion doesn’t mean that we know how to properly use it. We must learn. These technologies are powerful. In a sense, the technology is not the substance itself, it is the set of practices that includes it. By itself, a psychedelic is no more a technology than is a microchip in a hole in the ground. The word technology means a “logos of crafts.”

Tam | You argue in Climate: A New Story that even shifting to a fully renewable energy economy, while offering obvious benefits over our current mostly fossil-fueled economy, would still entail numerous ills because simply changing our power sources won’t fix the growing separation we all feel. As someone who has spent his primary career focused on the green energy transition, I’ve been guilty of advocating for this particular techno fix for some time and we are indeed on the verge of realizing a fully renewable energy economy in two to three decades in the US and globally (I make this argument in my book, Solar: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright). That said, I find myself agreeing with you that this is far from a “mission accomplished” moment, as much as I would like to take some much-needed time off from advocacy. You seem in your work a bit torn about the merits and effects of a fully green energy economy. Would you agree that transitioning away from fossil fuels is highly desirable for many reasons, but that this alone is only one part of the overall changes we need to make in how we live?

Charles | Yes, transitioning away from fossil fuels is highly desirable for many reasons — depending on what we transition into. That is actually more important than what we transition out of. In the book I say that even if global warming is not a problem, I still want to end fracking, oil spills, tar sands excavation, and all the other ruin that accompanies fossil fuel extraction. However, I don’t want to replace it with the ruin that accompanies the electric economy, which at least at this stage requires a vast expansion of ecologically ruinous mining for silver, coltan, lithium, rare earths, etc. The ecological damage from hydro power, biofuel plantations, and nukes is also horrendous.

In my view, by far the most important transition is to see earth as alive, precious, and sacred. And then to implement this understanding with a complete moratorium on further “development” of remaining undamaged ecosystems. No more deforestation of the Amazon and Congo, no more draining wetlands, etc. Equally important is restoration of damaged ecosystems, soil, and marine environments. We should for example put at least half the oceans under marine preserves. That will give the world’s navies something useful to do.

When the organs of Gaia are strong, she will be resilient to changing levels of greenhouse gases and other challenges. If the organs (forests, wetlands, oceans, etc.) are weak, then the climate will spiral into derangement even if we cut carbon emissions to zero.

Tam | A major techno fix that is increasingly likely is space colonization, including the Moon, Mars, and other bodies in our solar system. While we won’t be seeing millions of people living in space in the next decade or two, it seems likely that by 2050 or so we probably will be. In terms of all of the many environmental, social, and spiritual ills you highlight in your work, how much, if any, of these problems will be ameliorated as we become a multiplanetary species and find untold abundance in other planets and eventually other star systems? Is your philosophy suited for a space-faring civilization?

Charles | I disagree. Space colonization is much harder than the optimists think. It will require technologies that aren’t really on the radar right now. It will in fact require the kinds of technologies that are inaccessible to the consciousness that wants to escape responsibility for earth.

Tam | I see a clear progression in your last four books with each more or less leading naturally to the next. But I can’t discern what your next one will be. Maybe a foreign policy based on love? Is it in the works already?

Charles | I’m not sure if I will write more books. Events are happening so quickly that it doesn’t make sense to spend a year or two writing a book, which is then published the year after that. Instead I can publish piecemeal on Substack.

Experimental images generated using AI application, DALL-E

About Tam Hunt

Tam Hunt is a renewable energy lawyer, philosopher and writer. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, and Hilo, Hawaii. When he’s not reading and writing, he’s playing tennis, hanging out with friends or traveling.

His work in philosophy looks at the intersection of science and spirituality, the mind-body problem, evolutionary theory, and the philosophy of physics.

He also writes regularly on renewable energy, the environment and climate change, as well as technology and futurism.

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