Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
Two fascinating perspectives.
1. A conversation with Charles Taylor - THE 2008 KYOTO PRIZE
Video Messages from Dr. Charles MargraveTaylor, the Laureate of 2008 KYOTO PRIZE, Arts and Philosophy. “Feelings on receiving the Kyoto Prize” “What philosophers can do for society” “Future interest and theme”(2008/11/11)
Wikipedia describes Charles Taylor thus,
Charles Margrave Taylor, CC GOQ FRSC (born November 5, 1931) is a Canadian philosopher from Montreal, Quebec best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, and intellectual history. This work has earned him the prestigious Kyoto Prize and the Templeton Prize, in addition to widespread esteem among philosophers. In 2007, Taylor served with Gérard Bouchard on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation with regard to cultural differences in the province of Quebec. Taylor currently teaches at McGill University in the Department of Religious Studies. He is a practicing Roman Catholic.
There is also a fuller biography presented here.
2. How we see circumstances is so much more important – Rory Sutherland on Perspectives.
The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says Rory Sutherland. At TEDxAthens, he makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness.
The TED profile of Rory Sutherland explains that:
From unlikely beginnings as a classics teacher to his current job as Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, Rory Sutherland has created his own brand of the Cinderella story. He joined Ogilvy & Mather’s planning department in 1988, and became a junior copywriter, working on Microsoft’s account in its pre-Windows days. An early fan of the Internet, he was among the first in the traditional ad world to see the potential in these relatively unknown technologies.
Just a couple of items that came through my ‘in-box’ in recent times.
From the Payson Roundup newspaper of the 9th October, last.
Southwest forests are already in the early stages of a mega drought brought on by climate change that will result in massive tree die-offs and sweeping changes in Rim Country forests, according to an analysis published in the scientific journal Climate Change.
Severe drought will dominate much of this century, creating stresses on forests not seen for more than 1,000 years, according to the research that used tree ring samples from 13,000 trees, historical rainfall records and computer projections of future climate change.
The shifts will likely dramatically shrink the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona, replacing pines with junipers at elevations like Payson and replacing junipers with chaparral and cactus at lower elevations.
The article concludes,
Unfortunately, the team’s climate prediction models suggest that within the next 40 years the region will fall deep into mega drought conditions. The models predict that even the wettest, coolest years in the late 21st century will exceed mega drought levels. In that case, the drought conditions of the past decade will prove the new normal rather than a bad stretch.
Williams noted that while winters in the past decade haven’t been exceptionally dry, summer temperatures have soared. As a result, the stress on the trees in the past 13 years has exceeded mega drought levels about 30 percent of the time — conditions not matched for the previous 1,000 years.
Now to a more positive message, this one from Climate Denial Crock of the Week for 10th October, 2012.
One of the clean little secrets about dealing with climate change, is that if we make our cities more efficient, and reduce their carbon footprint, we will also make them more resilient, quieter, more comfortable, more human scaled, more inviting, and more fun.
For more on this story go to http://www.pbs.org/newshour/topic/climate-change/
As global temperatures rise, urban areas are facing challenges in keeping their infrastructure and their residents cool. Chicago is tackling that problem with a green design makeover. This report is part of our Coping with Climate Change series.
First published on 1st November, 2009.
Time for bed
Thanks to Dan Gomez for forwarding it. Classic!
The end of a treasured time in Payson, Arizona.
Today, Jean and I together with our 11 dogs and 5 cats start the 1,200 mile journey to Merlin, Oregon. While we have only lived in Payson since February, 2010, it has been a time of fantastic experiences. I had to work through the long process of getting a fiancee visa from the American Embassy in London. Until that was issued my ‘residence’ in Payson was that of a British tourist with me having to leave the USA every 90 days.
The visa was issued in October, 2010 and I flew immediately to Arizona. On the 8th November, 2010 Jean and I were issued with a Marriage License Certificate and we were married on the 20th November at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Payson.
We have made many very dear friends here in Payson but Oregon feels like the start of our home in every sense of the word, not just because it is the first home that Jean and I have bought jointly.
One of those dear friends here in Payson has been John Hurlburt, a devoutly spiritual man. A little over a week ago, he sent me a very thoughtful essay and I wanted to include it today as a guest post in recognition of the way that John and many, many others have embraced these couple of Brits over the last 32 months. Thank you all.
Everything fits together
The species of animals we know as human beings is a part of everything that exists. We are a very young consciously-aware species that does not begin to know all the answers. What little we do know has a Natural pattern. It would seem that there’s a lamplighter and a navigator in all of us. The lamplighter is our fundamental awareness of being and provides nature’s guidance along life’s pathways.
Our natural navigator is designed for evolutionary competition. There’s a biological survival kit in our DNA. Extreme demand for limited resources generates deadly combat; both within and between species. As a result of competition taken to wretched excess, our global economy is leveraged 22 times beyond any earthly foundation. The unspoken intent to destroy each other over what remains of our planet is becoming increasingly evident.
The human species is engaged in a global war over money, ideals and disappearing finite resources. Ninety-seven percent of the world scientific community has confirmed that the natural effects of heat and discharges generated by human machines and related human activities are the primary cause of recent rapid climate change.
These dedicated scientists are opposed in the media by three percent of their corporate energy-financed peers. An oppressive worldwide network of often offensive politicians is similarly supported and managed accordingly. Nature couldn’t care less about politics, emotions or idealistic arguments.
Human squabbles mean very little in the totality of universal life. The drumbeat of local natural disasters increases steadily. There are no two ways about it. No amount of human ifs or buts can or will change reality. Our human species is in deep serious trouble.
It has been six million years since the first humanoids emerged and two million years since the rise of human civilization. What a sorrow it is to realize what we have done to the earth in just the past two hundred and fifty years. We’ve reached the moon and are exploring Mars. It’s well past time to clean house and re-grow our local garden.
As an old navigator, there’s a sense of urgency regarding the course life on earth has taken. For those who continue to care about facts, the prognosis is not encouraging. We have the know-how for an alternative. We can avoid the perfect storm of going over the edge of an economic cliff and the crush of an environmental crisis in the midst of a war-fuelled, profit-driven, global, corporate fight to the end. The alternative is that we have the know-how to transition rapidly to a reality-based economy and a way of living that’s gentle to the earth. The solution is global, it’s industrial, it’s natural and it’s our best hope. It may well be our only hope. It’s time to light some lamps.
Conscious human awareness emerges as we relax, contemplate, meditate, and communicate openly. These are levels of awareness beyond the limits of our daily human musings. The wisdom which flows from enlightened awareness embraces humility, experience, knowledge, understanding, and faith. Life has never been easy. We’re fragile biological beings. Our mutual growth is the result of sustained efforts over millions of years.
Yet despite attaining a higher level of conscious awareness our human culture continues to operate on a material basis rather than a moral basis. We have become confused by our own importance or the apparent lack thereof. We all too often retreat into a rut, furnish it and turn on the electronics.
By definition, natural processes support species growth in harmony with all natural life. Those natural processes are indistinguishable from the planetary support systems within which all life interacts. Human interaction is local. We spend much of our lives unaware that we are unaware; initially as infants and throughout our lives in deep sleep. When caught up in the pressures of our daily lives, it’s easy to be unaware of being unaware.
It’s time to wake up. Cosmology is an eternal spring from which the waters of the earth still flow. When we turn ourselves inside-out and achieve higher awareness, we discover who, what and where we really and truly are. In a trinity of spirituality, nature and science, we’re cosmically energized beings; spiritual beings sharing a transitory human existence.
Ninety-eight percent of the human population believes in a power beyond species and self. The simplest understanding of this belief is that we humans did not originally create ourselves. All human wisdom and understanding leads to the conclusion that human beings don’t own the earth. We’re caretakers and we’re only passing through. Given that we have a systemic crisis, what do we have to work with?
We have a species that’s squabbling over diminishing resources, an environment and an infrastructure which both desperately require attention, a sustaining objective of equitable global employment, a world economy that’s about to collapse for lack of any real foundation, a burgeoning population which further strains the system and the clear need for a unifying purpose.
Put it all together and what do we have? The navigator is our guide to growth. The navigator shares our wholeness. The lamplighter is our guide to unity. Everything fits together. Each of us is a part of the unity of life. Unity has a natural purpose. It’s time to build a life boat.
John Hurlburt is a former U.S. Navy aviator and successful corporate executive who presently serves as a senior Christian educator and a founding member of an international Transition Town in Payson, Arizona.
Don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find those incredibly powerful words. Words that provide the truth. A truth the whole world needs. John set out in a personal email to me the three simple fundamentals of our lives. Just a few more words to sum up the truth.
“There’s an environmental crisis. There’s an inevitable global economic abyss touching us all on a daily basis. The need for a green economic transformation is obvious.“
Thank you, John.
I make no apologies for today’s post being more emotional and sentimental.
The phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me‘ is well known throughout the English-speaking world and surprisingly goes back some way. A quick web search found that in the The Christian Recorder of March 1862, there was this comment:
Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’. True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.
So if in 1862 the saying was referred to as an ‘old adage’ then it clearly pre-dated 1862 by some degree.
A few days ago, Dusty M., here in Payson, AZ, sent me a short YouTube video called The Power of Words. I’m as vulnerable as the next guy to needing being reminded about what’s important in this funny old world. Then I started mulling over the tendency for all of us to be sucked into a well of doom and gloom. Take my posts on Learning from Dogs over the last couple of days, as an example.
There is no question that the world in which we all live is going through some extremely challenging times but anger and negativity is not going to be the answer. As that old reference spelt out so clearly, “True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.“
So first watch the video,
then let me close by reminding us all that courage is yet something else we can learn from dogs.
In 1925, a ravaging case of diphtheria broke out in the isolated Alaskan village of Nome. No plane or ship could get the serum there, so the decision was made for multiple sled dog teams to relay the medicine across the treacherous frozen land. The dog that often gets credit for eventually saving the town is Balto, but he just happened to run the last, 55-mile leg in the race. The sled dog who did the lion’s share of the work was Togo. His journey, fraught with white-out storms, was the longest by 200 miles and included a traverse across perilous Norton Sound — where he saved his team and driver in a courageous swim through ice floes.
More about Togo another day.
How the relationship that we have with domesticated animals taught us the meaning of love.
This exploration into the most fundamental emotion of all, love, was stimulated by me just finishing Pat Shipman’s book The Animal Connection. Sturdy followers of Learning from Dogs (what a hardy lot you are!) will recall that about 5 weeks ago I wrote a post entitled The Woof at the Door which included an essay from Pat, republished with her permission, that set out how “Dogs may have been man’s best friend for thousands of years longer than we realized“.
What I want to do is to take a personal journey through love. I should add immediately that I have no specialist or professional background with regard to ‘love’ just, like millions of others, a collection of experiences that have tapped me on the shoulder these last 67 years.
I would imagine that there are almost as many ideas about the meaning of love as there are people on this planet. Dictionary.com produces this in answer to the search on the word ‘love’.
[luhv] noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.
- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
- a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
- sexual passion or desire.
- a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person;sweetheart.
- (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection,or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?
But, I don’t know about you, those definitions leave something missing for me. Here’s my take on what love is, and it’s only by having so many dogs in my life that I have found this clarity of thought.
Love is trust, love is pure openness, love is knowing that you offer yourself without any barriers. Think how you dream of giving yourself outwardly in the total surrender of love. Reflect on that surrender that you experience when deeply connecting, nay loving, with your dog.
Here’s how Pat Shipman expressed it in her book:
Clearly, part of the basis of our intimacy with tame or domesticated animals involves physical contact. People who work with animals touch them. It doesn’t matter if you are a horse breeder, a farmer raising pigs, a pet owner, a zoo keeper, or a veterinarian, we touch them, stroke them, hug them. Many of us kiss our animals and many allow them to sleep with us. We touch animals because this is a crucial aspect of the nonverbal communication that we have evolved over millennia. We touch animals because it raises our oxytocin levels – and the animal’s oxytocin levels. We touch animals because we and they enjoy it. (p.274)
Pat soon after writes,
From the first stone tool to the origin of language and the most recent living tools, our involvement with animals has directed our course.
Thus it is not beyond reason to presume that tens of thousands of years of physical and emotional closeness between humans and their animals have developed the emotion of love in us humans, so eloquently expressed in art and life.
There’s another aspect of what we may have learned from dogs. In Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog, she writes of the way that dogs look at us,
Having been folded into the world of humans, dogs no longer needed some of the skills that they would to survive on their own. As we’ll see, what dogs lack in physical skills, they make up for in people skills.
AND THEN OUR EYES MET ….
There is one final, seemingly minor difference between the two species. This one small behavioral variation between wolves and dogs has remarkable consequences. The difference is this: dogs look at our eyes.
Dogs make eye contact and look to us for information – about the location of food, about our emotions, about what is happening. Wolves avoid eye contact. In both species, eye contact can be a threat: to stare is to assert authority. So too is it with humans. In one of my undergraduate psychology classes, I have my students do a simple field experiment wherein they try to make and hold eye contact with everyone they pass on campus. Both they and those on the receiving end of their stares behave remarkably consistently: everyone can’t wait to break eye contact. It’s stressful for the students, a great number of whom suddenly claim to be shy: they report their hearts begin to race and they start sweating when simply holding someone’s gaze for a few seconds. They concoct elaborate stories on the spot to explain why someone looked away, or held their gaze for a half second longer. For the most part, their staring is met with deflected gazes from those they eyeball.
Then a few sentences later, Alexandra continues to write,
Dogs look, too. Though they have inherited some aversion to staring too long at eyes, dogs seem to be predisposed to inspect our faces for information, for reassurance, for guidance. Not only is this pleasing to us – there is a certain satisfaction in gazing deep into a dog’s eyes gazing back at you – it is also perfectly suited to getting along with humans. (pps 45-46)
No apologies for now inserting the photograph of Pharaoh that adorns the Welcome page of Learning from Dogs. Underlines what Alexandra wrote above in spades.
OK, time to start bringing this to a close.
The Toronto Star ran a great review of Pat Shipman’s book from which I will just take this snippet,
“But understanding animals and empathizing with them also triggered other changes in humanity’s evolution, Shipman said.
All those things allow people to live with people. Once people have domesticated animals, they start to live in stable groups. They have fields, crops and more permanent dwellings.”
In other words, we can see that living with animals took us from nomadic hunter-gatherers to living with other people in stable groups; the birth of farming. It is my contention that the evolution of communities and the resulting more stable relationships elevated love leading to love becoming a higher order emotion than just associated with the ‘grunt’ of reproduction.
I started by saying that it was Pat Shipman’s book that stimulated me to wander through my own consciousness and realise that when I bury my face in the side of one of the dogs, say on the bed, it resonates with the most ancient memories in my human consciousness. Indeed, I am of no doubt that my openness and emotional surrender to that dog enables me to be a better, as in more loving, person for Jean.
So let me close this essay by asking you to return here and read the guest post tomorrow from author Eleanore MacDonald, where Eleanore writes of the loss of their dog Djuna. You will read the most precious and heart-rending words about love. Thank you.
Further beautiful reflections from John Hurlburt.
By one of those lovely patterns in life, John’s last contribution to Learning from Dogs was exactly a year ago, a Post that was called Definitions, questions and prayers.
Past, present and future combine
In the natural beauty of a moment
The sigh of the wind in the pines
Is a hymn to ancient growth
The hush of the wind in the willows
Invites peace and well being
The sparkle of pure water
Assures that tomorrow will include life
an old lamplighter
A powerful example of grief and repair.
Normally my week-end posts are lighthearted. But I do hope you will forgive the departure for today.
Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will recall that on the 2nd August I published a piece under the title of Changing the person: Me. It offered several examples of how personal change or transition is tough but that the rewards that come from understanding the personal and emotional consequences of big life changes are immense. As I wrote then,
The most important thing to note, and this is why so many ‘change’ ambitions fail, is that change is deeply unsettling at first. When change happens for the majority of us, often ‘forced’ on us as a result of unplanned life events, we are left deeply unsettled; a strong feeling of being lost, of being in unfamiliar surroundings. Think divorce or, worse, the death of a partner or child, reflect on how many sign up for bereavement counselling in such circumstances. Big-time change is big-time tough (apologies for the grammar!).
Then I came across the story of how Eric Clapton coped when his four-year-old son fell from the window of the 53rd-floor window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment. Here’s an extract from the WikiPedia entry:
The years following 1990 were extremely turbulent for Clapton. In August 1990, his manager and two of his roadies (along with fellow musician Stevie Ray Vaughan) were killed in a helicopter accident. Seven months later, on March 20, 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor died after falling from the 53rd-floor window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four-story building. After isolating himself for a period, Clapton began working again, writing music for a movie about drug addiction called Rush. Clapton dealt with the grief of his son’s death by co-writing “Tears in Heaven” with Will Jennings.
Here’s Tears in Heaven. Please stop whatever you are doing now and play this video. In under 5 minutes it demonstrates the power of the saying from Henry David Thoreau, the American author and poet – “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves”.
And going back to that WikiPedia entry …
In an interview with Daphne Barak, Clapton stated, “I almost subconsciously used music for myself as a healing agent, and lo and behold, it worked… I have got a great deal of happiness and a great deal of healing from music“.
Let me close with another saying, this time from George Moore, the novelist, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
The most amazing ancient site, possibly in the world.
I know this is a bit of a giant leap from yesterday’s Post but bear with me. A short while ago, my friend Suzann sent me a link to some information about the archaeological site in Eastern Turkey known as Göbekli Tepe. Suzann, as many regular readers will know, was the person who caused me to meet Jeannie back in December 2007 when Su invited me to spend Christmas with her and Don, her husband, at their home down in San Carlos, Mexico.
Before I go on to write about Göbekli Tepe let me also muse on another fascinating connection between Suzann and me. That is that Su and I were sharing the same waters in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1991. Here’s an extract from a recent email from Su.,
Don’s brother’s boat was Hana Ho.from Honolulu, Hawaii, a Tayana 55…gorgeous thing! They sailed in the Med for years around that time…it is possible you could have run into them…..
When we first flew in to Cyprus June of 1991, Bob’s boat was up on the hard. It took another 5 days to finish, and we had to climb straight up and down a steep, rickety ladder each time we went out, because we slept on the boat every night….was it ever hot and muggy! and no bathroom facilities in use!! But had a lovely time in Cyprus and really got out and saw things there. Delicious food!!
Then we sailed over toward the Turkey/Syrian border area and then gunk-holed west along the coast, ending up at Izmer, after visiting places like Antalya, Kekova Roads,Fethiya and the magnificent Rock Tombs, Marmaris, Bodrum, Kisadasi, Ephesus to name a few….
I, too, was living on a yacht, over-wintering in Cyprus, and cruising the Turkish and Greek coasts during the summer. Anyway, enough of these musings.
Göbekli Tepe is old. I mean seriously old. For example, I’m very familiar, being an Englishman, with the mystery and antiquity of Stonehenge. But even the revised estimates of Stonehenge’s age, now believed to be 3,000 B.C., don’t measure up to the age of Göbekli Tepe.
Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple.
Imagine, there are fewer years between today and the building of Stonehenge than there are between the construction of Göbekli Tepe and Stonehenge! Think about that!
Anyway, enjoy this video,
and if that grabs your interest then there is a longer 25-minute radio broadcast by Klaus Schmidt that is on YouTube, see below:
German archeologist Klaus Schmidt, from the German Archaeological Institute, who has been working as the head archeologist at Göbekli Tepe, a temple site located in southeastern Turkey close to the boarder to Syria. Klaus has been excavating there since 1994 and he joins us to talk about the excavation work, and to give us his impressions and theories about the site and the people who built it and worshiped at this ancient temple site. The temple is believed to have been erected in the 10th millennium BC (about 11,500 years ago). It is believed to be the oldest human-made place of worship, it’s even been called the Garden of Eden. Only about 3-5% of the site has been excavated so far, which has unveiled several stone circle rooms, only one of which has been dug down to the floor. As many as 20 such structures are thought to exist under the ground at the site, these have been detected by radar scans. These stone circles have large T-shaped pillars, some of the heaviest stones weigh up to 50 tons. The monoliths are decorated with carved reliefs of animals, abstract pictograms, sacred symbols and similarities to Neolithic cave paintings have been pointed out. The carefully carved figurative reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures and water fowl. Göbekli Tepe means “Hill with a potbelly” although there already exists other interpretations of the name, connected to the word “Zep Tepi” or “The First Time” a period in beliefs of a mythological golden age when the gods lived amongst humanity together with half-divine offsprings of gods and humans. Is Göbekli Tepe the Garden of Eden? June 24, 2010
If you want more to read then I can do no better than recommend the article that Suzann linked to in her email. It’s here and it starts thus,
Gobekli Tepe: 12,000 Years Old and Rewriting Human History
“This time what came first was the temple and then the city.”
- Klaus Schmidt, Ph.D., German Archaeological Institute
12,000-year-old circles of limestone columns weighing from 7 to 15 tons or more have been excavated in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey, about 6 miles northeast of Urfa.
Older than Egypt, Sumeria and Stonehenge, 40 standing T-shaped columns have so far been uncovered in four circles 98 feet (30 meters) in diameter. To date, no metal tools have been found since meticulous digging and dating began in 1994. Only 5% of the temple complex in repeating circles has been uncovered.
Ground-penetrating radar surveys indicate there might be at least 250 more standing stones in 18 still-buried circles. Finely honed reliefs and some 3-dimensional sculptures on the limestone columns depict boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes, scorpions, vultures, reptiles, humans and other figures.
You’ll have to read the rest of the article here.
Sort of puts the history of man into perspective!