The Hanged Man

When I was younger, two Tarot Cards turned up repeatedly in readings done for me: The Hanged Man, and the Fool. The Hanged Man was interpreted at the time as a sign that I was destined for a life of self-sacrifice, and possibly asceticism. This explanation seemed implausible, and while my youth was not particularly happy, I have in fact been blessed all my life with great fortune, and whatever struggles I have faced have been largely of my own doing.

In more recent years, the Hanged Man has not featured in the rare readings I have had done, or done for myself.

Until last week that is, when, returning from a short trip to Wales (mostly to attend a meeting about non-duality, but also to visit with my remarkable Welsh family, and to hike in the Brecon Beacons with my friend Ben Brangwyn), I decided to ask the Tarot: Where do I go from here, now that I have come to accept the ‘hopeless’ message of radical non-duality?

I did a three-card (past/present/future) spread, and there, in the all-important future spot, was my old friend the Hanged Man. Here’s what the interpretation was this time:

A man hangs by his ankle from a T shaped tree. The calm expression on his face and the fact that his hands are hidden behind his back indicate that he is not struggling; he has chosen to do this to gain enlightenment.

The Hanged Man in your future indicates that your situation will best be improved by letting go. This may mean that your struggle to manipulate and control things may make your situation worse. The action you should take in this case is to choose to be passive. If you relax and let events unfold, rather than second-guessing others and their motivations, you will discover the truth. The Hanged Man may indicate that you should do the opposite of what would be expected of you.

This is why I love the Tarot, and, in general, the genius of randomness.

Tarot card in the public domain, from wikimedia.

Posted in Our Culture / Ourselves | 2 Comments

Fourth Composition

I’m pleased to present my fourth composition, entitled Konpasition. Once again it’s entirely original (no loops, no samples). This one was inspired by the rhythms of Haitian Konpa or Compas music (formerly called Zouk, sometimes called Gouyad though that is mainly the accompanying dance style). The modern masters of the genre are T-Vice and Harmonik.

For those subscribing to my blog posts via feed, since you won’t see the Soundcloud graphic above, here is a link to all four compositions in my first ‘EP’:

Dave Pollard Untitled EP:

  1. Konpasition
  2. What the Swallow Told Me
  3. The Silent Journey
  4. The Paraglider
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Why We Eat So Badly (and No One Is To Blame)


When I came to appreciate how complex systems work, it enabled me to take a more dispassionate and sympathetic look at the myriad of problems and predicaments facing us. The downside of this was the realization that predicaments can’t be fixed, period, no matter how brilliantly designed, elegant and popular our ‘solutions’ might appear. The best one can do is to learn, probe, experiment and adapt. The upside is that I no longer waste energy hoping and striving for what is beyond my personal, and our collective, control, and no longer feel motivated to assign blame to anyone for the situation — fixing blame is a very human first step in any process leading to a ‘solution’, and when it’s acknowledged that there is no ‘solution’, there is no point in looking for who was to blame.

This is the approach I have brought in recent years to self-management — learning and becoming more aware of what’s happening inside me, physically, intellectually, emotionally and instinctively, so that I am less reactive and so that my actions are better informed than they used to be, and hence probably more useful to others, and to me.

My health self-management journey began in 2006 when I contracted a horrible case of ulcerative colitis as a consequence of my body’s inability to cope with massive chronic stress. At that point I didn’t really understand complexity (I was still, foolishly, bound and determined to reduce the amount of stress in my life, and you probably know how that usually turns out). But nevertheless I, perhaps intuitively, used the only viable approach to dealing with complex systems — learn, probe, experiment, adapt. Through regression analysis I was able to identify precisely which therapies improved my health and which didn’t, and I adapted my lifestyle, as much as possible, to go with what made me healthier. I’ve now been symptom-free for 11 years.

Seven years ago I made the decision to go vegan instead of ‘just’ vegetarian, and again closely monitored my health (I have decades of data on my daily feeling of wellbeing, plus my times for my regular 5k and 10k runs and 3-hour hikes, so I know when my health is off), and have been healthier than I have ever been.

This year I discovered (thanks to friend Mat Hallam-Eames) the non-profit website NutritionFacts.org, which provides a wealth of clinical research and other factual evidence on the connection between nutrition and health (the doctor’s suggested “daily dozen” foods/activities are shown in the graphic above). The evidence suggests that for most (not all) people, a balanced whole plant based diet is healthiest. That means vegan, but more importantly it means weaning yourself off processed foods, especially sugars and oils.

For me, dependent as I was on coconut milk, stevia, Earth Balance (“hippie margarine”), veggie burgers, vegan desserts, frozen convenience foods, and frying in oil, trying to eat even healthier and fulfil the “daily dozen” has proven to be harder than either going vegetarian or going vegan. I have a long way to go — on a typical day, this dedicated vegan manages just 7 of the daily dozen, and that’s 3 more than I averaged just a few months ago. And I thought I was eating healthy!

And that brings me to the point of this article: We eat badly in part because we don’t know better, and in part because eating is both a social activity and a way in which we reward ourselves for coping through another day in this wonderful, terrible, stressful, fucked-up world.

It is easy to blame the pharmaceutical industry, which tells us the way to get better is to take pills instead of preventing ourselves from getting ill in the first place by eating what our bodies are designed to eat. But nutrition is not their bailiwick; their job is to make pills that will make you less ill if you don’t look after your own health.

It is easy to blame doctors, who fail to tell us how vitally important nutrition is to our health, and hence allow us to get sick so they can do what they see their job as being — healing you. But they get almost no training in nutrition in their medical program, which is already exhausting. And because there is no money in research that tells you eating a balanced whole plant food diet will prevent and alleviate many chronic illnesses far better than expensive drugs and endless therapies, there is too little research done, and what is done is not enough to get doctors’ attention (or the media’s, or teachers’, or parents’, or for that matter even nutritionists’ or dieticians’). So everyone is in the dark, when the apparent path to a considerably longer and much healthier life is staring us in the face.

It is easy to blame the processed food and fast food industries, who feed us crap that is bad for us. But they’re giving us what we want — food that tastes good (at least what our taste buds have been conditioned to appreciate as ‘good’), and that is cheap and easy when many are working two jobs and have no time left to cook (or even to learn to cook). Same for the coffee shops, bars and liquor stores. Most people would, quite understandably, wrinkle their noses at the “daily dozen” above — a diet worse than death.

It’s easy to blame grocery stores, who operate on very thin margins and yet still do their best to accommodate the infinite variety of different choices customers demand. It’s not their fault the deli counter is crowded and the produce aisle is empty.

And it’s easy to blame advertisers, product labellers, factory farm operators, politicians who allow food producers to lie and hence endanger consumers’ health, and lawyers who enable them to get away with it. Our economic system, which no one controls, ensures that these roles will continue to be filled even when some walk away when they learn the truth about the consequences of their work.

And of course it’s easy to blame ourselves: For not having will-power, for not managing our time enough to have the energy and to develop the knowledge and skill to make nutritious food delicious. And our parents for not knowing either, so they could pass on this knowledge. And our kids for refusing to eat the nutritious food we try to provide.

But that blame won’t stick either. We eat the foods we eat because we can’t help it. It’s not some kind of moral weakness that has us nibbling french fries and downing diet soft drinks and putting that extra spoonful of sugar in our coffee. It’s a physical and psychological addiction to flavours we have been conditioned all our lives to love, a coping mechanism to reward us for surviving another meeting or another day of stress and anguish and struggle, and a powerful social sharing with others that is as old as our species.

And all of these factors work together brilliantly to ensure that we continue to eat badly, even when we know the cost is to reduce, perhaps by as much as a third, the number of healthy days in our short lives, with the commensurate staggering cost to our mental health, the cost of health care, loss of productivity, and all the costs that flow from them.

This is a predicament. It has no ‘solution’. We are no sooner going to start eating healthy than we are going to reverse global warming. The best we can do is learn, probe, experiment and adapt.

That means becoming a bit more knowledgable and aware of how the food system, and our bodies, work, and what our bodies are telling us, and making small incremental changes that are not self-punishing. But who has the time, money, energy and opportunity to do even this? Very few people. But just as we might start an organic community garden or help decommission a dam or clean up a river or prevent our island from being logged, we can do a few personal, local things that are not too hard, and maybe even fun, that will make things a little better. The combined effect of what Adam Gopnik has called “a thousand small sanities” can add up, though not in ways we can hope to depend on or even anticipate.

Sometimes, it might seem like it’s hopeless, and therefore better not to know. Sometimes, just knowing, just being a little more aware of what is really happening, is enough.

.     .     .     .     .

Postscript: Here are the small, easy steps I’ve taken personally to eat just a little better. I mention them as an example of how to make significant improvements to nutrition and health (in my case, moving on average from 4 to 7 of the “daily dozen” each day) without having to change much, do anything I don’t like, or work hard. I don’t intend them as advice for others (every body is different):

  • Make one of my meals every day a large bowl (or large smoothie glass) of at least 6 different chopped vegetables that I like, with a dip/dressing on the side, sprinkled with ground flax seeds and chopped nuts.
  • Dish of sliced whole fruit once a day; berry/fruit smoothie 3 times a week.
  • Two mugs of green tea a day, with non-GMO erythritol sweetener, non-GMO soy creamer and (first mug each day) 1/3 tsp turmeric.
  • Listening to interesting podcasts or audiobooks while doing my hour/week core and upper body exercises; using my treadmill desk to multitask while doing my four hours/week aerobic exercises.
Posted in How the World Really Works | 1 Comment

hallucination


image: the tadpole galaxy, a ‘disrupted’ galaxy — source: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA, in the public domain, via wikipedia; Processing – Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

~~~~~

when it awoke, it wasn’t quite clear who it was
or where it was, or even if it was at all.

there seemed to be something to it, or perhaps
that was just part of the dream it had awoken from.
there were these things that seemed to be part of it,
but then they seemed to have a life of their own,
so perhaps they weren’t part of it.

there were so many sensations,
but none of them made any sense.
it wasn’t even clear whether they were supposed to make sense,
or if they were just happening.

it wanted to return to sleep. this was too confusing.
to sleep, but not to go back to the dream it was having,
which was very troubling. in the dream
it had no control of anything, and it seemed there was a purpose
and that it had to do something,
though it didn’t know what.

there was a noise, close by. was it making that noise,
or was there something else making it? was there anything else?

everything was too bright. but bright compared to what?
was there anything before the dream and this awakening from it?

how could it go back to sleep? was there no way back
from this noisy, terribly bright place?

and then there was a warmth, a softness, a wetness,
enveloping it. that seemed right. was sleep back inside there?
it welcomed the warmth, trusted it. it seemed different
from the parts that were always nearby, separate somehow.
it didn’t want to be separate from the warmth. back please.

. . . . .

each time it awoke, the bewilderment returned. who was it?
what was it? what was it supposed to do? in the dream
there was something that had to be done. but done by whom?
was the dream real or was it real? or both? or neither?

the awakening was fine when the warmth was there,
but sometimes the warmth wasn’t there. it remembered when
it was the warmth, or part of it. it was very perplexing.

this was all a mistake. if it could only go back to sleep, the right way,
there would be no more awakening to this terrible place.
sometimes the sleep was right, and everything was right,
and sometimes there was the dream, and then the awakening.

please, no more dreams.

no more awakening.

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Third Composition

This is very different from my first two compositions — it’s largely freeform and improvisational, and entirely original, using no loops. It was inspired by watching the violet-green swallows soaring over my house; one pair is nesting in my powder room vent.

If you subscribe to my blog via feed, you probably won’t see the links to the music, in which case here is a link to all three compositions so far in this first ‘EP’:

Dave Pollard Untitled EP:

  1. What the Swallow Told Me
  2. The Silent Journey
  3. The Paraglider
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First Compositions

I have been spending a lot of time this month composing music. While I don’t have anything new to share yet, I thought I would post a couple of my earlier compositions to give a flavour for what I am doing.

The Paraglider was my first GarageBand composition, and it made considerable use of loops, though most of the composition, and almost all the tracks, are original.

The Silent Journey is a mellower piece, and more original. I used Garageband loops only for some of the rhythm tracks, and the arpeggiator effects.

I have two more pieces I hope to post shortly, the first inspired by my passion for Haitian Zouk/Konpa music, and the second very experimental, using overlays of chord progressions. Lots more to follow after that. Stay tuned.

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The Providence Ceremony


photos above and images below from pixabay CC0

conversation log: 6476 New Calendar
The Tsilga‘ Providence, our collective name for their rememberer-women, gather in a circle around the dais. It is time for their ceremony of word-sense, which the Providence have done four times each blossoming-cycle almost as far back as the Forgetting, the time of the Great Burning.

As has been explained, the Tsilga‘ have no ‘language’ as such; they seemingly have no need for it. Calls (with various nuances), whistles, gestures, eye-movements and body-language suffice to provide them with all they need to communicate. Though their songs are melodious and richly harmonic, their vocalizations are not words but rather inflections of voice that somehow go together, adding an additional dimension of compositional pattern, whose meaning, if any, is left to the listener, rather than being explicit. The songs are nameless and often improvisational, sung by a group only after a tune sung by an initiator is recognized. ‘The Providence’ is our log-keepers’ name for them; they apparently have no names themselves.

When the ancient tiles were found, the Tsilga‘ discoverers gave them to the Providence, and the women have since met regularly for what we have come to call the word-sense ceremony. The woven bag with thousands of tiles, each with a ‘word’ from the Forgetting time inscribed on it, is emptied onto the dais, and the ceremony begins.

Silently, they select from among the many tiles and begin to assemble collections of words that make sense, or would have done when words were used. It is a collective process, each woman scanning the work of the others and passing among them tiles that seem to fit. The circular dais is marked with icons at cardinal points and then at intermediate points dividing the dais into 128. The icons represent seasons, directions, times of day, totem creatures and other quaternities of the Tsilga‘ culture.

The ceremony is joyous, with much laughing, expressions of discovery and surprise, and singing and playing of instruments accompanying it. The sense-making collections, what the people of the Forgetting time would have called ‘phrases’, are identified by consensus, a collective acknowledgement that a phrase that has been assembled has an import of some kind. When this happens, there is silence for several moments, as the significance of the phrase is reflected upon by the Providence in what seems to be a type of meditation. And then the sense-making resumes. Somehow the women know when the ceremony is over, when enough sense has been made and enough joy and learning experienced by the sense-makers. The tiles are then put away and the women return to their other activities — the making of medicines, the teaching of songs, the adornment of the bodies and hair of the other Tsilga‘ members with designs, etc.

The tribe appears to live an idyllic lifestyle, with no mandatory work and an abundance of local food and water, but this was only achieved after the discovery of the permaculture methods left behind by the people of the Forgetting, and many years of work by the Providence to intervene in the local ecosystem to create the native gardens that now need no further nurturing to thrive and provide the Tsilga‘ with all they require. This skill was also taught, with great difficulty, to the much-suffering neighbouring tribes, and now these tribes live in a tenuous peaceful co-existence, though their cultures are so foreign to each other that there is limited interaction between them.

The Providence has women of all ages, from those alive fewer than 20 blossoming-cycles to the most ancient, and they are self-selected among the Tsilga‘ from the most quick-witted females of the tribe. Here is a description of some of what happened at a recent ceremony:

When the tiles were emptied, three of the younger remember-women who had been studying the words of the Forgetting time centred their work around one of the first words to be turned over, the word this. It was first attached to their icon for curiosity, and then, to considerable murmuring, one of the older women added the word not in front of it. What ensued was the addition of a number of tiles representing things that were not this, until one of the women removed the not tile and instead added the tiles better and than in front of the this tile.

At this point several other members of the Providence nodded encouragement, and work focused on deciding what might be better than this. A song of joy began, and the young women quickly found the remaining tiles they needed. One of the women mimicked the song of the chickadee and the tiles were moved to the bird icon on the dais, and then linked to another icon, so that it read:

There were cries of pleasure at the ambiguous cleverness of this phrase, and then a long moment of silence ensued during which the meaning of the phrase was meditated upon.

Then the sense-making resumed and soon one of the elder women had assembled a phrase beside another icon that attracted the admiration of others:

After some time contemplating this, the group continued, with several of the women creating a ‘cross-word’ joining two icons:

Nods of acknowledgement were followed by another few moments of silence. Several of the women were so moved by the apparent wisdom of this phrase that they cried quietly.

A short while later there was a spontaneous decision to merge together two phrases that were under development, combining them into the idea:

And soon thereafter, joining two other icons, another ambiguous phrase had been assembled:

After meditating a few moments in silence, there was a spontaneous decision to explore several words that had been put in a ‘discard’ pile, seemingly indicating that no one knew what they meant. This discarded word list included: lonely, atomowner, nation, selfishdigital, and private. The group turned to the oldest woman in the Providence. She simply smiled and shrugged as if to say either she didn’t know what these words meant, or wasn’t able to explain using other words.

As the ceremony ended, there was much laughter, tears, hugs, expressions of astonishment and appreciation, and some looks of awe and bewilderment by some of the onlookers at this mysterious work by the Providence. It was enough for them that the rememberer-women appeared to know what these ‘words’ meant. They were trusted to know what to do with this strange knowledge from the terrible time of the Forgetting, and how to use it to strive to ensure there was never again another time of Great Migration, another Great Burning.

And then, there was feasting, celebration, and a night evincing all the ways the Tsilga‘ expressed their love for all that is.

 

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Community-Based Business Success Predictor

This poster, which you can also download in a larger size as a PDF, is a recap of some of the major findings in my book Finding the Sweet Spot. If you can’t even imagine starting your own community-based business, here’s a post that might hopefully alleviate some of your fears.


A note to readers and subscribers: I have again been thinking about the purpose and direction of this blog, and I am exploring whether to make How to Save the World exclusively a place to post my creative works going forward. Like many of my fellow bloggers, I’m not sure I still have anything important to say in the form of essays or expository writing that hasn’t been said better by others (though I do expect to continue posting my Links of the Quarter).

So look for more stories, poetry and music in the months to come.

Posted in Working Smarter | 4 Comments

Links of the Quarter: June 2017

PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S END


Photo taken from my balcony last month

Approaching a Minsky Moment: Nicole & Ilargi update their primer on the financial collapse that is likely to precipitate the collapse of our industrial economy (and the end of affordable energy) long before runaway climate change weighs in full force.

The Costs of Disconnection: Derrick Jensen talks with Janaia at Peak Moment TV about our disconnection from nature, and from the real world.

The Methane Bomb: Will Denayer sums up the latest climate science on the dangers of runaway climate change due to methane release. Thanks to David Petraitis for the link. A more urgent threat from Russian methane is outlined by Climate Progress. Thanks to Erik Michaels for that link.


LIVING BETTER


Diagram by EugThinks; thanks to Ben Collver for the link.

Loving Life on Bowen Island: Robbie Savoie provides a lovely and artistic view of Bowen Island, where I live.

Living Abundantly in the Sharing Economy: Tree Bressen talks with Janaia at Peak Moment TV (special appearance by yours truly) talking about how (with much effort and practice) you can make a comfortable living in the space between the current economy and the gift economy.

Your Drugs Will (Mostly) Work Far Past Their Expiry Dates: With a few notable exceptions mostly noted in the article, a Harvard study finds that most drugs will work perfectly well years, even a decade or more, after their expiry date. (And, by the way, most foods are perfectly healthy and nutritious well past their “best by” dates.)

How We Really Die: As many doctors and nutritionists have discovered, most of us will die from chronic, non-communicable diseases attributable directly and overwhelmingly to lifestyle, stress and nutrition. Instead, we pour billions into a greedy pharmaceutical industry (and the processed and GMO food industry) with a vested interest in these diseases continuing. Michael Bloomberg has volunteered to try to start dealing with the real health crisis. I wish him well. More, from the WHO.

Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death: A moving Canadian case study shows the good and bad in Canada’s new (better but woefully inadequate) right to die law. Thanks to Chris Corrigan for the link.

How To Make Decisions: An exhaustive (and long) survey of just about every theory and process on how decisions are made. Embedded in the article is this awesome wheel of 180 common biases in our thinking, categorized. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.


POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL


A real photo (original source unknown) taken during a certain leader’s visit to Saudi Arabia. I’ll leave it to you to caption it.

Does Shame Work on the Shameless?: In past, leaders (like Nixon) who were sufficiently shamed by a persistent focus on their actions, eventually (with some push from colleagues who also flinch from shame) resign, so work can begin rectifying the damage they have done. If we compiled a “body count” of the incremental deaths caused by the current US administration’s actions (and inactions), would that be enough to bring about a resignation? Or is this administration so brazen and so disconnected from feelings that shame doesn’t register?

Steve Bannon’s Turning: How the worldview of one of the most powerful (for now) Americans was transformed by reading the book The Fourth Turning.

The Finnish Sketch: How the Finns see the American First Family.

Petronas Builds Unauthorized Dams for BC Fracking: The corruption scandals of the disgraced and defeated (but refusing to resign) BC government continue with news that Petronas, the Malaysia-based LNG giant, built dozens of dams up to five stories high without permits. The corporation was a huge donor to the electoral campaign of the (now-outgoing, noisily) government.

Simon Fraser and the LNG Bomb: Research by Bob Bossin reveals the incredible threat to public safety of the massive Vancouver tanker farm to be expanded to accommodate the widened Kinder Morgan pipeline, which both the outgoing BC government and the fake-liberal federal government have approved, but which the incoming BC government wants stopped. Wonder how badly they want it stopped? Thanks to Jackie Bradley for the link.

Money Isn’t Real: Amusing thread that demonstrates how, if you don’t get it, you won’t get it.

Ending Gerrymandering: The atrocious and undemocratic process of fixing electoral boundaries to favour the party in power, known by proponents as “redistricting”, is now under scrutiny by the right wing US Supreme Court. This could be nasty.


FUN AND INSPIRATION


New Zealand baby albatross cam. The baby above, born in NZ in January, will be flying by August, and can be seen live here. Another baby, in Kaua’i, born the same week, can be seen live here. Watch once and you’ll be hooked.

Jonathan Pie Cracks Up: Tom Walker, who does comedy as the fake-British-newscaster Jonathan Pie, is in brilliant form in this rant about the need for truly socialist alternatives, the UK elections and Labour’s lack of support of their leader, and the horrific tower fire. Definitely NSFW. Thanks to Jae Mather for the links.

The Piano Guys: The Piano Guys are four incredibly talented Mormons who do jaw-droppingly creative and accomplished mashups of classical and popular music. Some of my favourites: Taylor Swift’s Begin Again/ Bach’s Sheep May Safely GrazeLet It Go (Theme from movie Frozen)/ Vivaldi’s Four Seasons —Winter; and their own work Summer Jam.

John Cleese on Political Correctness: The need to allow good-natured humour about any group or subject, even beyond the bounds of comfort and political correctness: “All Comedy is Critical“.

We’ve Been Around a While: Two more studies push back the age of the first humans on another continent to back before 100,000 years ago, and the age of humans in the Mediterranean to before 300,000 years ago. The old theories of a single recent African origin and an even more recent ice-age migration to the Americas are starting to look more like creationism than science.

The Return of History: The 2016 Massey Lectures feature Jennifer Welsh describing how history is now repeating itself in alarming ways. Thanks to Jessica Mitts for the link.

Taking On the Bull: In case you haven’t seen it, the artist of Wall Street’s raging bull is trying to get the fearless girl statue erected in front of it, removed. Thanks to Darren Barefoot for the link.

Never Mind!: Great spoof of “relationship gurus” promotes passive aggressive behaviour as a means of control. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

Octopuses’ Strange Evolution: More scientific dogma is shattered as octopuses turn out to be even stranger than thought. Thanks to Sam Rose and David Bonta for the link.

The Vertical Oracle: A twist on Tarot readings. Thanks to reader Ilex for the link.

You’re Not Going to Believe This: An Oatmeal cartoon about our unwillingness to believe things that don’t fit with our worldview. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.

Vegan (W)rap: A hilarious song about veganism. Thanks to the Vegan Community House for the link.


THOUGHTS OF THE QUARTER


Photo of Killarney Lake, Bowen Island, by Jason Wilde

From Derrick Jensen, in A Language Older Than Words:

In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves. It is not necessary that the lies be particularly believable. The lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers to truth are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

As is true for most children, when I was young I heard the world speak… [Then] Like static on a radio, schooling and other forms of socialization began to interfere with my perception of the animate world, and for a number of years I almost believed that only humans spoke… It wasn’t until later that I began to understand the personal, political, social, ecological, and economic implications of living in a silenced world.

The silencing is central to the workings of our culture. The staunch refusal to hear the voices of those we exploit is crucial to our domination of them. Religion, science, philosophy, politics, education, psychology, medicine, literature, linguistics, and art have all been pressed into service as tools to rationalize the silencing and degradation of women, children, other races, other cultures, the natural world and its members, our emotions, our consciences, our experiences, and our cultural and personal histories.

From Buddha: “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

 

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Limbo Pt. 2

So this is what it’s all come down to: a hopeless realization that this apparent person has no free will, no control or choice, no responsibility or agency — doesn’t exist at all in fact. That what we call ‘real life’ is apparently an ephemera, a dream, a tragic, totally-unnecessary and accidental consequence of the brain’s growth to the point it is able to create a model so sophisticated it can create an identity within it and then persuade that identity it is real.

This cannot of course be proved — a character in a dream cannot prove to the other characters that they are all dreamt. So why would ‘I’ want to believe such a thing? ‘I’ cannot help myself; it’s intuitive, it’s compelling (complete, internally consistent, and explains everything), and it resonates with some ‘glimpses’, some ‘memories’ of something other, something truer than what seems real the rest of the time. I certainly don’t want to believe something that creates such cognitive dissonance, makes navigating this world more difficult, annoys many of the people I care about, and leaves ‘me’ in a frustrating state of limbo. And achieving intellectual clarity about it is of no help whatsoever.

But this is for now what I believe, and I’m learning to deal with it. At some point in early childhood my brain created my self, and suddenly the world that had been obvious, perfect, awesomely complex and wondrous, became suddenly terribly complicated, bewildering and dangerous, in need of ‘navigation’ on behalf of this previously competent character, this organ-filled bag of skin. In pre-school years ‘I’ seemed to drop away and re-emerge quite frequently, I think (and have done so occasionally since then, in moments I call ‘glimpses’).

Right from the start, ‘I’ didn’t like this separation, this sudden responsibility. I sensed no reason for it, and it filled me, as ‘I’ grew more separate (with encouragement from everyone in ‘my’ culture, the other deluded selves) with fear and anxiety. During the glimpses there was (and is) immediate recall and recognition of previous glimpses and of what was before ‘I’ — what eternally is —  and a realization of the needlessness of anxiety, and indeed the needlessness of a self. But nonetheless my self has continued to grow stronger, unable to help its self but still foolishly sure of its self, and incidents of its falling away have become rarer.

Like most ‘people’, ‘I’ have (apparently) achieved some considerable successes in my (apparent) life, and these successes gave my self some solace and a sense that its struggle was ‘worth it’. And ‘I’ have also experienced the limerence of falling in love — that amazing chemical cocktail that obliterates the sense of self and separation and makes the body feel too good to be anxious, angry or sad. But they never lasted, these illusory moments of escape from the struggle, from the search, and sometimes from the self itself. There was always a let-down, a fading away of the good feelings, a disillusionment. And then it was back to the struggle, the sense that something very basic was not quite right about this life, and the search for that magic: “Yes — aha, that’s it, how could I not have seen, not remember?”

Achieving an intellectual understanding of all this has provided very little solace — usually ‘I’ find that even when learning something is saddening or upsetting, it is better to know. But knowing you’re in a dream is of no value if you can’t wake up. Getting clarity about why you’re in a prison serving a sentence of life without parole, when you did nothing to deserve it, doesn’t help make the harsh term or conditions more bearable.

And my study of radical non-duality has led me to understand that there is no path — that what all the well-meaning gurus and spiritual ‘teachers’ and ‘leaders’ do is convince the desperately seeking self that it can transcend its self, which is a tautological impossibility.

The best that the self (including the selves of gurus and spiritual ‘teachers’ and ‘leaders’) can hope to do is to find ways, with the help of others, to make the prison of the self more comfortable, and to help others do likewise. And of course the self cannot do so voluntarily, since it doesn’t really exist. If the inherent nature of the creature is to do this, with or without clarity, it will do that. This creature’s character is selfish and tired, and there are limits to what and how much it’s prepared to do to heal and comfort others (no limit on what it’s prepared to do to heal and comfort itself, however). But it’s doing what it must, and that, I’m told, has included doing things that have helped others.

And of course ‘I’ can’t help hoping, absurdly, that my self will fall away if only I create the right conditions for it. That is what selves do, in their coherent or incoherent endless search for what they cannot find — their own demise. In the meantime, my self still seeks escape in love, in sex, in accomplishment, and in learning new things, though it knows, now, that disappointment will surely follow.

Would the world be a better place if the self had not evolved to needlessly afflict us? Radical non-duality’s answer is probably not, and that we cannot know. The belief in the above description of reality (and my belief in it remains tentative) changes everything (in how I relate to the world and to my self) and nothing (since ‘I’ don’t exist). That’s why I can’t stop writing about it.

If my self were to ‘permanently’ fall away it is hard to guess what this character that ‘I’ have infected might do without ‘me’. Probably just drop out of public view, give up all ‘my’ possessions (including, I suspect, this blog), do joyous things with those it loves, and just wander the world, untethered, in wonder. That seems to have been the propensity of this character named Dave before ‘I’ intervened. I can only hope, fool that I am.

Posted in Our Culture / Ourselves | 9 Comments