Links of the Quarter: March 2017

The events of the last three months have made it increasingly clear that we’re well into the first wave of global industrial civilization’s collapse.

  1. There’s been an astonishing increase in extreme weather events and climate anomalies, attesting to the rapid and unpredictable destabilization of our global climate.
  2. There’s been a sharp increase in the level and breadth of psychopathy of the so-called “leaders” of our political, business and economic systems — to the point there’s no longer even a pretence of honesty in public proclamations, a pretence of fairness in the simultaneous overregulation in some sectors (the security apparatus and corporate interests) and massive deregulation in others (any laws and institutions protecting the public interest), a pretence of justice or civility in the outrageous actions of the judiciary and law “enforcement”, or a pretence of legality or decency in the wholesale pillaging of public lands, resources and the commons by the corpocracy — attesting to the fear and desperation of those with wealth and power to protect and hoard what they have in the face of the inevitable crises ahead.

How does one ‘deal’ with the simultaneous collapse of so many systems upon which so many of us now utterly depend? How does one explain to one’s children that the idea of progress was a myth and that the future we are bequeathing to them is likely to be grim, desolate, unhealthy and, worst of all, completely unpredictable, as we swing from one wave of collapse, through temporary periods of stability, and then into the next even more bleak and bewildering wave?

I can see no way of coping with it beyond doing what one can at the local level to help those in our communities adapt to its fallout, and to do so with as much compassion, joy in the moment, generosity, and equanimity that we can muster. We can’t plan, or control, or predict, or even really prepare, beyond self-knowledge, staying healthy, and learning essential skills, for what may come next.

Not much else to say.


PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S COLLAPSE


Winning caption, submitted by Audrey Orr, to a recent New Yorker cartoon caption contest; cartoon by Joe Dator

Will the Crash of 2018 Be the First Stage of Civilization’s Collapse?: The thorough and fearless British investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed explains how by 2018 the short-term glut of energy will yield to a long-term intractable deficiency in affordable energy that will quickly bring about a massive crash of the global industrial food and economic systems that depend on an abundance of cheap energy. (Thanks to Guy Fraser for the link.) It’s looking more and more likely that America’s hapless current buffoon-in-chief will become known as the Peak Oil President.

Why Climate Scientists Fear to Tell Us The Truth: The climate is changing so quickly, and even the most pessimistic models of climate instability are being so quickly exceeded by alarming new data, that many climate scientists are beginning to suffer from PTSD-like symptoms and are self-censoring because (a) they don’t know how to tell the long-deceived public how quickly we’ve passed the point of no return, without inciting anger, hopelessness and denial, and (b) they will lose their jobs if they do so. They will tell you that the idea of containing climate change to under 2ºC is absurd, and that a catastrophic 6ºC of average global warming this century (with up to 15ºC warming in some polar and other areas) is increasingly looking like an optimistic forecast. Thanks to Andrew Campbell for the link.

Massive Arctic Temperature Anomaly Wreaks Havoc on Global Weather: Temperature variances in the arctic of as much as 40ºC within a few hundred kilometres have occurred on and off all winter, as the far north continues to see sustained long-term temperatures 5+ºC warmer than historical averages, contributing to massive glacier melt and the imminent complete disappearance of the arctic ice pack. British Columbia has, as a result of high-level polar winds produced by these anomalies, had the coldest, snowiest winter in decades, while in Eastern Canada record high temperatures are now yielding to massive early spring blizzards. Similar stories abound on every continent. At least one climate scientist says the jet stream, which moderates temperatures, may have been permanently disrupted, rendering the models used for long-term forecasting here on in more or less useless.

What 6ºC of Average Warming Means Locally: As optimists about our ability to deal effectively with climate change sound increasingly deluded and in denial, some communities have given up hoping for large-scale action on climate change and are commissioning reports on what 6ºC of warming will mean for agriculture, infrastructure and security in their communities.

Other Disasters On the Horizon: If economic and ecological crises weren’t enough, there are signs that the stop-gap measures at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, five years after the tidal wave damage, are not working and full-scale melt-down may be inevitable. And there is other evidence, such as the potentially disastrous crumbling of the Mosul Dam (“a bigger problem than ISIS”) and the breaching of the US’ Oroville Dam and critical damage to the Clifton Court Reservoir, that our fragile and funding-starved infrastructure will rapidly crumble as extreme climate events become more commonplace. And we already know that we’re utterly unprepared for the type of major earthquake that will hit the North American West Coast likely also in this century, as worrying signs of its arrival are increasingly evident.


LIVING BETTER

Science Fiction for the Real World: John Michael Greer (who has recently been waxing philosophical about collapse and even touching on non-duality) suggests that some of the best ideas about what collapse might look like, and how to live through it and after it, might come from intelligent, non-formulaic speculative fiction; he contributes regularly to Into the Ruins, a quarterly compendium of such writing. Editor Joel Caris brings to it an interesting philosophy and writes thought-provoking intros to each edition that alone are worth the cost of a subscription.

Symmathesy: Nora Bateson has been developing new language around complexity, perceiving that the traditional mechanistic language of “systems” is simplistic and flawed and can lead to illogical and ineffective thinking. Symmathesy is her replacement for “complex system”, or more precisely for “adaptive co-evolving interaction”. Only by changing our ways of thinking about such interaction to a more holistic, less analytical one, she argues, can we start to appreciate how symmathesy actually works and how to work within, rather than upon, it. Thanks to Tia Carr for the link.

Risking Jail For Your Beliefs: On a par I think with whistle-blowers and truth-exposers like Edward Snowden, the five brave and principled valve-turners who safely shut down the Tar Sands pipelines for one day, made a huge personal sacrifice to show us all how to behave in the face of social and environmental outrages when other means have failed. They continue a long line of non-violent direct action heroes who deserve our commendation and support. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.

Eating Better: Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts website is a completely free, non-profit, comprehensive searchable (and entertaining) guide to everything there is to know about clinical research on the nutrition-health connection. Nothing for sale there, and nothing on offer except the truth, and it’s surprisingly simple and affordable. (For an overview, start here.)

Rebooting the Democratic Party: Young blogger Rebecca Meyer, a lifelong Democrat, articulately urges progressives to abandon the failed strategies, platforms and standard-bearers of the DNC establishment and reposition the party as a true progressive party.

Reinventing Organizations: Fredric Laloux’s book about how to structure and operate your organization as “teal” is generating much warranted enthusiasm — possibly the most useful set of new OD ideas in the last decade. One recent article presents a pretty thorough and mostly fair review of the basic principles of “teal” organizations, and then (IMO somewhat unfairly) criticizes the book because it fails to acknowledge that none of its ideas are new (they have been employed in different cultures for millennia). Thanks to Tree Bressen and Ben Collver for the link.

Could the Post Office Be the Solution to Hunger in Affluent Nations?: A fascinating new proposal suggests the USPS and its counterparts in other nations have precisely the infrastructure and processes needed for effective food distribution to the poor. Thanks to Lorraine Suzuki for the link.

Complexity-Based Approaches to Planning and Design: A new article from my friend Chris Corrigan suggests four shifts from traditional planning approaches that are often idealistic and assume we know more than we actually do: (1) Shift from Environmental Scans to Discerning Patterns through Anecdote Circles (making sense of rich stories about what is happening/needed, rather than analyzing less granular broad brush trends); (2) Shift from Visioning & Goal Setting to Scenario Planning (being prepared to adapt to alternate possible future states, rather than banking on one); (3) Shift from Goals & Objectives to Probes & Prototypes (trying iterative experiments informed by continuous intelligence-gathering, rather than creating things that might be vulnerable to shifting goalposts); and (4) Shift from Summative Evaluation to Developmental Evaluation & Continuous Learning (learning and constantly making incremental improvements and adaptations, rather than waiting until the process/project is complete for formal measurement and assessment). In a related line of thinking, Aleks Savic suggests that, because confirmation bias is evolutionarily selected for (it helps us communicate better and be more persuasive, even though it often leads us to make bad decisions) we would be better learners and designers if we acknowledged and embraced conflicting and unsettling beliefs and ideas.

Disentangling the Issues of Gender Identity: Rebecca Reilly-Cooper’s Sex and Gender: A Beginner’s Guide is a very long and very thorough explanation of the rationale for radical feminists’ heated and controversial disagreement with the trans community on the issue of gender identity.


POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL


Photo taken shortly after version one of the US President’s anti-Muslim decree; original source unknown

Move Along Folks, Nothing Important Happening Here: While pundits ponder whether Der Drumpf is even more mentally ill than other current and recent global “leaders”, it might be worth speculating whether any sane person would go through what Bernie Sanders or Keith Ellison (thanks to Antonio Dias for the link) went through to fight the intractable bought-and-sold party machines that control most so-called “democratic” governments. Mental illness also underlies the utter despair and anxiety of those most at risk from Drumpf’s arbitrary and frivolous wrath, and the testosterone-fueled rage (thanks to Earl Mardle for the link) of his supporters in America’s surging neo-fascist movements. Even die-hard conservatives are aghast. And the corporate-controlled for-profit American “health care” system is so bloated and incompetent (thanks to Nancy Ryder for the link) even its supporters question how long it can continue. When we live in an insane culture, we should not be surprised at what it wreaks. In other countries — Canada for example — signs point to the same evolving trends: corrupt governments, emboldened hate groups, uncontrolled business scams, ultra-rich corporatist tax cheats, and a general feeling of anomie that anything can be done about it. And in states like Russia further along the path of collapse, in the remote outposts not protected by the power kleptocracy average life-spans have plunged back into the 50s as death begins to look like an attractive alternative to what the future holds. This is what large-scale system failure looks like.


FUN & INSPIRATION


Another New Yorker cartoon contest cartoon, this one by PC Vey, with three excellent ‘finalist’ captions: (1) “Is that a new outfit?”; (2) “We had meth on Tuesday.”; (3) “Are you sure the directions said to add mustard gas?”

When the World is Going Crazy, Sing: The phenomenal “pop-up” Toronto Choir! Choir! Choir! presents a haunting, stirring 1300-voice strong version of MILCK’s anti-Drumpf protest song I Can’t Keep Quiet. They’ve also covered Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours, Patti Smith’s Because the Night, and many other other songs. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the links. And for more moving music, watch The Black-Eyed Peas and many celebrity guests sing Where’s the Love?

All Consuming Tasks: Playing off our passion for categorizing things, John Kellden spoofs Seneca and Jorge Borges with his hilarious categories of convivial tasks. Read his links to Seneca and Borges first if you want to get the joke.

Albatross!: A baby at that, mostly ignored by the blathering adults nearby. On Kaua’i, just a few miles from where I’m writing this. Camera pans around often, so wait for the baby. Awwww!

New Species of Jellyfish Found: Deep in the ocean, looking like the animate alien vehicles they are.

The Phenomenon of Yacht Rock: If you enjoyed the rich harmonies and intricate compositions of late-70s/early-80s impresarios (think: Michael Macdonald, Christopher Cross, — etc) you may not have even realized that it was a recognized genre. Here’s a playlist of 200 of the best Yacht Rock songs. (My list of favourite Yacht Rock songs is here.)

Video For Your Treadmill Marathon: The national Norwegian railway has filmed dozens of hours of stunning silent footage out the front window of its cross-country passenger train locomotive, prompting other countries to do likewise. Mesmerizing way to distract you from your boring treadmill activities.

Drumpf Pie: Jonathan Pie sums it up in 3 minutes. Falling-down funny. Thanks to Jon Husband for the link.

Words for Emotions That Don’t Exist in English: A fun list of foreign-language words that mean things that can’t be said in one word in English, if they can be said at all. Language gets slippery, though: we can say what they words denote, but not necessarily what they connote; that requires a cultural framework to understand them. Thanks to Jae Mather for the link.

What the Vietnam War Looked Like From the North: Astonishing photos taken by North Vietnamese photographers, often at enormous personal risk. Thanks to Lorraine Suzuki for the link.

Ants Have a Global Monoculture Too: Research suggests hundreds of billions of Argentine ants, spanning four continents, may belong to a single mega-colony, and recognize each other immediately and peacefully as colony-mates. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.

Zip It Up: Research proves that filling in emptier lanes leading up to a zipper merge and then alternating at the merge point is not only not rude, it’s the best way to optimize traffic flow.


THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH

From Kim Stafford (son of the US poet laureate) (thanks to Tree Bressen for the link). Audio version here. Full book of post-election poems sold here.

The Flavor of Unity by Kim Stafford

El sabor que nos hace únicos.
— Inca Kola slogan

The flavor that makes us one cannot be bought
or sold, does not belong to a country, cannot
enrich the rich or be denied to the poor.
The flavor that makes us one emanates from the earth.
A butterfly can find it, a child in a house of grass,
exiles coming home at last to taste wind off the sea, rain
falling into the trees, mist rising from home ground.
The flavor that makes us one we must feed
to one another with songs, kind words, and
human glances across the silent square.

A Lesson in Time by Kim Stafford

We stood on a forest road at the meadow’s edge
so Joe could teach the story of geologic time.
Mateo set a little flag—red tatter

on a rusted wire—to mark the miasmic
gathering when earth first clenched dust
by the stern affection we call gravity.

In the meadow, grass wavered, and was still.
Then Charles began to step off eons
through the Hadean Period, as low sun

lit the pines gold. We arrived at
the Iron Catastrophe. Mateo set a flag
and Ruby laid down a stem of grass.

Under a sky made blue by oxygen
bacteria had formed, once volcanism
spewed steam from burnt stone, we

marched on. At each extinction, or
new creation, Mateo set a flag
and Ruby placed her stem of grass,

until Joe pulled two hairs from
my head to set in the dust. “The thickness
of these two strands,” he said, “we’ll call

the span of civilization.” Mateo set a flag,
and Ruby placed a stem of grass.

Some definitions from The Devil’s Dictionary (1906), by Ambrose Bierce

• absurdity — a statement of belief manifestly inconsistent with ones’ own opinion
• accident — an inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws
• admiration — the polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves
• adore — to venerate expectantly
• apologize — to lay the foundation for a future offence
• brain — the apparatus with which we think that we think; that which distinguishes the person who is content to be something from the person who wishes to do something
• corporation — an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility
• debt — an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver
• economy — purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford
• hope — desire and expectation rolled into one
• mind — a mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain; its chief activity consists of the endeavour to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with
• mine — belonging to me, if I can hold or seize it
• novel — a short story padded; a species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art
• oppose — to assist with obstructions and objections
• opposition — the party that prevents the government from running amok by hamstringing it
• outdoors — the part of the environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes; chiefly useful to inspire poets
• peace — a period of cheating between two periods of fighting
• photograph — a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art
• plan — to bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result
• please — to lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition
• prehistoric — antedating the art and practice of perpetuating falsehood
• presentable — hideously appareled after the manner of the time and place
• reality — the dream of a mad philosopher
• recollect — to recall with additions something not previously known
• resident — unable to leave
• responsibility — a detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of god, fate, fortune, luck or one’s neighbour; in the days of astrology it was customary to unload it on a star
• rich — holding in trust and subject to an accounting the property of the indolent, the incompetent, the unthrifty, the envious and the luckless
• riches — the savings of many in the hands of one
• self-evident — evident to one’s self and to nobody else
• talk — to commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an impulse without purpose
• ultimatum — a last demand before resorting to concessions

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11 Responses to Links of the Quarter: March 2017

  1. Don Stewart says:

    Dave
    While you were engaged in a struggle with duality and non-duality, I suggested that you should take a look at Dan Siegel’s Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human. You weren’t very receptive. Dan’s concept of mind is very similar to the Symmathesy notion outlined in this post.

    Once one grasps that the world is about learning and information coming from and going to a widely dispersed set of correspondents, then the very idea of a stand-along Ego fades into something not worth worrying about.

    It does not mean that an individual human has no meaning. It just means that an individual human has a meaning which has been constructed by a vast process which incorporates information and learning from the universe…not some set of genes inherited from the parents or some other hypothesized source of ‘oneness’.

    If you are still worrying about duality and non-duality, I still think you should take a look at Siegel.

    Don Stewart

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks Don. I will take a look at it. I remember reading reviews of it a while ago and being put off by the number of people who said his point was interesting but he wasn’t a very good writer. But I’ll take another look.

  3. Don Stewart says:

    Dave
    Among Dan’s precepts is that the mind is embodied, relational, and emergent.

    Now, if you begin with philosophers who taught you “I think, therefore I am’, or from religion ‘you were conceived in the image of God’, then you have a long road to travel to get to Dan’s concepts.

    When I was in the army many years ago, we had a saying:
    Tell what you are going to tell them.
    Tell them.
    Tell them what you told them.

    Dan’s style owes something to the long journey from philosophy and religion to neuroscience and to the cussed difficulty of teaching old dog’s new tricks, as the army’s methods attempted to deal with.

    At any rate, I think you may find it interesting.,…Don Stewart

  4. Don Stewart says:

    Dave
    Also remember Dan is a therapist. He want you to get better!

    So he includes in his protocol focusing your attention on what your sense of touch is telling you, or what you sense of sight is telling you, or what your environment is telling you, and even what your thoughts are telling you.

    If we think about touch, for example, our touch detects whether a stove is pleasantly warm, too hot, or dangerously hot. If our touch and the associated brain elements conclude the latter, they initiate rapid movement away from the stove. It is not at all usually about an unembodied brain deciding something. Similarly, when we are in a social situation, we are constantly getting a feel for whether we are having fun, are neutral, or suffering.

    All these experiences sculpt our mind. Our conscious mind is only the thin layer of icing on top. According to Dan, the conscious brain is mostly about deciding WHAT to pay attention to. We control ourselves by moving our attention around…because we simply do not have the computational power between our ears to pay attention to everything…or even most things. The story goes that Walter Murch, when doing the sound for the helicopter attack on the coastal village in Apocalyse Now, formulated the rule of 2 1/2. When Murch tried to play all the sounds tracks simultaneously, he found that it was just cacophony. He fiddled with the knobs and concluded that humans can listen to 2 1/2 sounds at any given time. (The half is things that don’t require much attention). Dan will lead you down the path of listening to one channel at a time…but of course that channel has already done a lot of selection and censorship before your conscious mind ever gets involved.

    Hope this helps….Don Stewart

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dave
    First, if you want to hear Dan Siegel talk, and perhaps answer your questions, you can sign up for the Neuroscience Training Summit 2017 at Sounds True. The talk is tomorrow, March 23, and free reruns will last for 24 hours. If you are really interested, you can buy the video package.

    But, second, a couple of desultory comments which probably relate to your questions about duality and non-duality. Yesterday, Kelly McGonigle from Stanford talked about her findings in terms of stress building strength…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. She was speaking of two different centers in the brain, one of old evolutionary origin and the other of much more recent origin. The old center tells us basically…’if it feels good, do it, and if it feels bad, don’t do it’. But the more recently evolved center has the ability to make the distinction between ‘what feels good now’ and ‘what is good for me in the long term’. The struggle between the two centers to control our actions are visible to scientists with brain machines. She also commented that ‘since the mind is not only in the brain, but also distributed around the body, we find a similar struggle between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system’ Stephen Porges, MD at the U of North Carolina, is speaking today:

    Wednesday, March 22 at 10:00 AM MDT
    Stephen Porges, PhD: “Connectedness as a Biological Imperative: Understanding the Consequences of Trauma, Abuse, and Chronic Stress through the Lens of the Polyvagal Theory”—The originator of Polyvagal Theory explains the basics of this wide-reaching concept and reveals how it affects both our evaluation of risk and our social interactions.

    It’s been a while since I heard Porges talk, and I wouldn’t want to put words in his mouth about duality and non-duality, but the emphasis on connectedness and the balancing of conflicting impulses is at the heart of his theory.

    In my words, the individual arises out of the sometimes contentious relationships between different sub-systems.

    It seems to me that most people want to keep the ‘mind’ tethered inside a single human body, and usually they want to pretend that it is a single, unipurpose entity. McGonigle and Porges begin to demolish some os those underpinnings, while, to my mind, Siegel takes a sledgehammer to them. Siegel is very insistent that ‘the mind is not just what the brain does’.

    Dan is also clear about how a human can direct their attention through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not, mostly, about achieving a blissful state (such as your romantic revery of floating in a rubber dinghy.) Mindfulness is mostly about directing attention toward the brain center focused on long term benefits and away from short term feel-goods, for example. It is also about shifting the balance of polyvagal power between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Mindfulness will never, ever be able to control the billions of impulses we are subjected to, but it may allow us to behave more strategically in important circumstances. I also understand why a polyamourous hedonist might not want to put his feet in that water.

    Don Stewart

  6. Brutus says:

    Don Stewart does some heavy proselytizing. Wade in at your peril or pleasure. Let me pluck a couple things. Don says, “… an individual human has a meaning which has been constructed by a vast process …” This is a potent reminder that we are social beings living, thinking, and acting within a limiting context. As such, we’re not wholly free to choose what we believe or do so long as we’re attuned to society; quite a lot is imposed. So to adopt an admittedly faulty metaphor, we’re nodes in a network, not stand-alone minds. This is why those deprived of society in early life never develop normative minds and those isolated later in life (e.g., solitary confinement) suffer horribly and often go mad. If one perceives oneself as participant in a social milieu, even without that rising to the level of a putative collective consciousness, then ego consciousness loses some of its armor.

    Don goes on, “It is not at all usually about an unembodied brain deciding something.” There is no such thing as a (functioning) disembodied mind/brain. That’s either an article of faith or a sci-fi thought experiment. Even the prospect of strong AI isn’t a close match, though we seem desperate to engineer one, like fools playing god. Don also writes, “the mind is not only in the brain, but also distributed around the body” and “most people want to keep the ‘mind’ tethered inside a single human body, and usually they want to pretend that it is a single, unipurpose entity.” This is a restatement of the central conflict between individual and society but with the added paradox that what we understand as “mind” cannot transcend individual embodiment yet functions well beyond the boundaries of the body. Information processing and learning undertaken by the mind is entirely porous and situational, closer to the flow of liquids than the static nature of solids.

    Finally, Don writes, “I also understand why a polyamourous hedonist might not want to put his feet in that water.” This remark isn’t directed at me, but I can’t help interpreting it as a dare, a goad, and a swipe all at once. Those who believe themselves to be in possession of special knowledge often set themselves up as gurus and thought leaders, encouraging and exhorting initiates somewhat enthusiastically. That sets off all sorts of alarm bells for me at the same time I recognize many people rush willingly toward such warm embrace. YMMV

  7. Don Stewart says:

    Dave and Brutus
    Relative to my comment that “I also understand why a polyamourous hedonist might not want to put his feet in that water” it is not meant as a dare, a goad, or a swipe. Rather, I was thinking most particularly about the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson’s recent comment that if they have only science, people tend to go mad. Jordan repeatedly tells the story of Nietzsche observing the Italian peasant beating his horse to death and then going mad. Jordan records almost everything he says, which he almost entirely ad-libs, and so I wouldn’t know where to begin to find the exact passage again. But the gist of it is that if you understand that you are both a product of everything else in the universe and also affect, in your own way, everything else in the universe, then Nietzsche can no longer simply wash his hands of the stupid Italian peasant. Jordan thinks that some sort of religion or spirituality is a reasonable barrier between doing nothing and assuming total responsibility.

    Polyamourous hedonism qualifies as a sort of spirituality or religion, to me. So long as it is about both receiving and giving pleasure. If a person has found their answer, then they may want to call a halt to further searching. There is no ‘One Size Fits All’.
    Don Stewart

  8. Brutus says:

    I’ll grant your clarification that you didn’t mean anything close to the way I took your remark. Thanks.

    Nietzsche may not be a terribly good illustration of Jordan Peterson’s point considering that the former was known to be in poor health even early in life. However, Nietzsche shares with Peterson one important characteristic: hyper-intellectual analysis. People who sink too deeply into their own minds run a high risk of missing the forest for the trees and/or losing touch with reality. Peterson is a notorious ideologue and wannabe guru with programs to sell (building a personal brand). They’re not entirely without merit, but his absolute certainty about things (at least in style of presentation) raises in me serious qualms.

  9. Don Stewart says:

    Dave and Brutus
    Leaving Jordan Peterson on the side. I made some time and listened to Porges’ talk. He makes many points, of which I will extract just a few to illustrate:
    *The change from reptiles to humans involved the new ability that mammals have to cooperate with each other. The cooperation is enabled by certain physiological traits such as prosodic voices, true smiles, eye contact, and the like.
    *Our bodies respond to environmental cues (such as threats) long before our consciousness picks up on them.
    *When environmental cues are created deliberately, it profoundly changes the way we interpret what is said or done. For example, if we are having a conversation with someone and they turn away from us, we detect threatening behavior long before we try to put some linguistic explanation in place.
    *Assume that a patient goes to a therapist seeking help in achieving some particular set of changes. The art of therapy implies getting the patient into a zone of safety, then moving them into a slightly more threatening zone while keeping in place a safety rope, doing the work to bring about the changed behavior, and then moving the patient back into the zone of safety. Humans are adept at using other humans to help modulate their own physiological reactions. We use tone of voice very effectively to communicate with dogs and babies.

    Any competent therapist would be far more likely to describe me as a bull in a china closet than as someone skilled in moving people between zones of safety. Therefore, if someone is quite comfortable where they are, I do not think it wise to try to vigorously move them out of their zone of safety.

    Don Stewart

  10. Dave Pollard says:

    Don & Brutus:

    I think I will stay on the sidelines of this discussion. While all of this is very thought-provoking, it seems to me at this point in my life both too earnest and too complicated for my tastes. I don’t want to work that hard to climb closer to the truth.

    The idea that there is only energy, and that everything that seems to exist (including time and space) is only appearance, and that the separate ‘self’ (or separate anything for that matter) is only a fleeting artifact, a dream, just resonates with me at an intuitive, visceral level. I “remember” it to be the truth more than I “believe” it to be so.

    I don’t presume to ‘sell’ anyone else on that message — in the absence of a glimpse of its veracity it will appear preposterous, and it might well be preposterous anyway. But to me, for now, it isn’t. And this resonance, of ‘all-there-is-is-this’, seems to make all the debate about what is, and why, and what ‘we’ can or should ‘do’ about it, delightfully moot. Everything that seems real is ephemera, and trying to sort out which is the least inadequate model of a passing illusion strikes me as akin to the enormous efforts of scientists to ‘prove’ the existence of additional elements and ‘god’ particles by smashing matter together at staggeringly fast and expensive speeds and watching for trails that have a half-live in microseconds — an awful lot of work to support a theory that can only be mostly wrong anyway.

    As for my hedonism, it seems to me less of a religion and more of a pastime — a pleasant and stress-busting way of being that causes relatively little harm until, or unless, I (or perhaps ‘this’ if ‘I’ drop away) can just be.

    But thank you for your suggestions, references and thoughts. Should I conclude that radical non-duality was a misstep and a dead-end, which would not be at all surprising, I’ll be back to follow the trail of crumbs and explore them further.

  11. Don Stewart says:

    Update
    I just listened to Dan’s talk. I won’t try to cover nearly everything. Just a few hints. You can check it out for yourself if you are interested…Don Stewart
    *95 percent of neuroscientists think he is crazy, and setting science back instead for furthering it. The Mind is just what the brain does.
    *Is the Mind a Singular Noun or a Plural Verb? The Lethal Lie of the modern age is that the Mind is a Singular Noun.
    *The Lethal Lie is leading the world into Chaos and Rigidity. The Fear is palpable when one walks the streets in Washington DC.
    *Dan’s view is that the Mind is a self-organizing emergent property which can regulate that from which it arose (energy and information flows from the brain and relationships), and shape its own becoming (the mind has a mind of its own).
    *Lack of integration (strength of the Connectome) is at the heart of ALL mental disorders. But good Mindfulness practices strengthen the Connectome.

    Now a few gratuitous guesses on my part about Dave using non-dualism and hedonism as touchstones. Dave’s non-dualism fits exactly into Dan’s concept of Mind as a Plural Verb. Dan is still young enough to think that he can save all those angry, disillusioned, self-destructive people in Washington, DC. Don’t they understand how simple it really is? Dave is old enough to be satisfied with saving the people in the hot-tub with him.

    They are both on the same side. One is just a little older and wiser, or alternatively, has lost some of the vital spark…according to your own reading of the reality tea-leaves.
    Don Stewart

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