Tag: Carl Sagan

More inward thoughts.

Each of us must care and love ourselves before we can love others.

(Apologies if this post rambles around a bit!)

Dr. Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. Dr. Neff has a website over at Self-Compassion.org. If you go to that site you will quickly read (And while I have copied and pasted it 100% as found on that webpage, I have modified the layout to make it easier to read from a visual point-of-view.):

Definition of Self-Compassion:

Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like.

First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.

Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.

Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

Let me highlight a small section from this:

….having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us.

This is the human condition; whatever one’s gender, status in life or age!

Moving on.

There is no question that I learnt something from my cycling accident last November 22nd and my subsequent emergency admission to hospital for sub-dural bleeding on December 24th. Something that I would not otherwise have understood so clearly and so starkly.

The remarkable power of the brain to heal itself; albeit very slowly compared with some minor physical injuries.

The BBC science series Horizon broadcast earlier this year the story of ‘Richard’. The full title was My Amazing Brain: Richard’s War.

Horizon follows the story of Richard Gray and his remarkable recovery from a life-changing, catastrophic stroke. Recorded by his documentary film-maker wife Fiona over four years, this film provides a rare account of the hard work that goes into post-stroke rehabilitation.

Initially bed bound and unable to do anything, including speak, the initial outlook was bleak, yet occasionally small glimmers of hope emerged. Armed always with her camera, Fiona captures the moment Richard moves his fingers for the first time, and then over months she documents his struggle to relearn how to walk again.

The story also features poignant footage delivered in a series of flashbacks, in which we see and hear Richard at his professional best. He was a peacekeeper with the United Nations, immersed in the brutal war in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We also hear from the surgeons and clinicians who were integral to Richard’s remarkable recovery, from describing life-saving, high-risk reconstructive surgery to intensive rehabilitation programmes that push the former soldier to his limits.

As the film starts, Fiona asks ‘will Richard, my Richard still be there?’ By the end the answer is clear.

Unfortunately unless you are in the UK it is not possible to watch the programme.

But Fiona, Richard’s wife, has produced a YouTube video. It so much deserves to be watched:

Moving on, yet again.

I am of no doubt that most, if not all, of us at some point in our lives wonder what on earth is the point in what we are doing or where we are at the stage in our own life’s journey. Certainly has applied to me in the past.

Frequently when we are a bit lost as to where on earth we are heading it helps enormously to hang on the shirt-tails of others.

Professor Clayton Christiansen has some really fabulous shirt-tails. For now just watch his presentation given at TEDx

“It’s actually really important that you succeed at what you’re succeeding at, but that isn’t going to be the measure of your life.”

For a slightly different perspective, watch Adam Leipzig.

Being human means a journey from birth through maturity and thence to death. It is likely that the last phase generates the greatest fear for us. But let’s not dwell on that for now!

Because I want to close my introspective journey by returning to self-compassion.

Or rather for our compassion for this beautiful planet that is the one and only home we have.

Dear Carl Sagan sums it up as perfectly as one could ever ask for.

Alright folks! I’m through!

Must go and hug a dog! (Or, more accurately, a dog memory!)

TIMOTHY BULLARD/Daily CourierPaul Handover with Pharaoh, a 12 year-old German Shepard that he uses on the cover of his new book about man’s best friend.

Tomorrow a clutch of dog recall advisories that have come in recently!

As they say a change is as good as a rest!

Once again I must say that I hold no qualifications whatsoever in the fields of psychiatry, psychology or any related disciplines. If you have found yourself to be affected to the point where you think you need proper counselling then, please, do seek help.

This is home!

It continues to feel very special!

Last Wednesday I was signed off in terms of being over my medical challenge and the good doctor said I was clear to return to driving; I drove home that afternoon from Eugene to Merlin.

I wanted to offer you good people a sense of what being home, more or less compus mentus , feels like.

I offer you this YouTube video.

It is a very beautiful world!

Looking into self.

Rounding off the week.

Starting with Monday’s video of Carl Sagan reminding us all that Planet Earth is just a grain of sand in the vast cosmos right through to yesterday’s Dealing with madness post, much of the week has been reminding us all of one very fundamental truth.  No better expressed than in a comment from Patrice Ayme [my emphasis]:

… there is no healthy man without a healthy world.

Regulars will have noted the high levels of debate this week.  Thank you all for those comments.

I have also received a couple of emails with feedback and comments, sent to me on a personal basis.  One of those emails had such a powerful message that I begged for permission to publish it on Learning from Dogs.  I was asked to keep the author’s identity private but, trust me, it is from someone I know well who subscribes to ideas of integrity and honesty in spades.

The author also strongly recommended publishing in association with his personal essay an extract from Chris Hedges’ book “Death of the Liberal Class”.  That extract follows straight on from the essay.

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Reflections from a Vietnam Combat Veteran

War is an unnatural dichotomy.  Both sides are morally and materially diminished.  A future World War would most probably finish us as the self-appointed predominant intelligent species on planet earth.  It seems worth noting that German industrialists coordinated fundamentalist propaganda to foster the bigotry, hatred and fear which fueled their profitable war engines prior to World War II.

United States commercial media today reflects a financially dominated military-industrial culture with liberty and justice for sale.  The results are divisive and lead to both a declared international war against nebulous assailants we have been taught to dislike and an internal political war that has polarized our once fair nation.

We’ve stopped investing in the future in response to radicals who want to destroy government, human rights and what remains of the earth’s surface resources.  There is an emerging police state mentality on display with a variety of candidates for local dictator.

It’s well past time for moderate republicans to ignore their uber-conservative brethren.  It’s well past time for moderate democrats to renounce their corporate ties.  This will only happen when our financial and political leaders awaken to the reality of what is in the best long-term interests for all life on this planet rather than our present unsustainable global economy.

To complicate the problem, our planet is under attack by a swarm of vociferous human locusts seeking profit without regard to the consequences.  Meanwhile, despite human denial, the universe continues to emerge.  Species which do not adapt to change do not survive.

It’s important to remember that we’re in the midst of a battle that’s as old as the conscious awareness of the human species.  We generally have very little idea of the inclusive nature of our being; let alone the nature of our collective being as a species. We have as yet to learn how to surrender to reality.  The battle is with our own species.

Committing collective suicide for quarterly profit is not a sane way of life.  What we’ve created is a neo-feudal global economy without any foundation that feeds on an empire of consumption.  When we combine a neo-feudal economy with neo-fascist politics we arrive at a moral and biological dead end.

The coup d’état of the current Corporate State is the Citizen’s United ruling that makes money a form of free speech.  Money has no DNA.  In case anyone missed how the “occupy” movement was crushed, there’s no question that we’re rapidly criminalizing all forms of dissent.  These actions are being taking under the 1917 Espionage Act and related state secrets acts.  No discernment of moral value is considered and no public hearings are conducted.  People who speak up are locked up.  We’ve become a fearful and secretive population.

Our self-appointed elite power structure is completely irrational in its belief that human reason is our ultimate power and money is its servant.  We are made of the stuff of the stars.  At best, we’re in our adolescence as a species.  We think we know the answers rather than admitting our ignorance.  What little we know is vastly less than what we have as yet to learn.  We are often unaware of being unaware.

The lives we presently lead can not be sustained in ways that we have become accustomed to; ways we take for granted.  What’s going to need to change?  The simple answer is everything.  Our species has systemically corrupted the small part of the cosmos which sustains our being.  Nature has no sense of humor, no patience for human squabbles and no financial interest.

Fortunately, we already know what we need to do to adapt.  We know how nature works through the wisdom of our earth sciences.  The answer is simple.  Love the earth.  Love life.  Share compassion.  Educate, naturally energize, and transform.  The resulting process of change will help re-establish a realistic world economic foundation.

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‘Death of the Liberal Class’

By Chris Hedges

From the book “Death of the Liberal Class,” by Chris Hedges.  Excerpted by arrangement with Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2010.

The following selection is taken from the first chapter of the book, published in October 201 by Nation Books.

In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the liberal class a useful component within the power elite.

But the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities—in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year—enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism.

In the name of tolerance—a word the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., never used—the liberal church and the synagogue refuse to denounce Christian heretics who acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of consumerism, nationalism, greed, imperial hubris, violence, and bigotry. These institutions accept globalization and unfettered capitalism as natural law. Liberal religious institutions, which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety expressed in a how-is-it-with-me kind of spirituality and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity. Years spent in seminary or rabbinical schools, years devoted to the study of ethics, justice, and morality, prove useless when it comes time to stand up to corporate forces that usurp religious and moral language for financial and political gain.

Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. These institutions have transformed themselves into vocational schools. They have become breeding grounds for systems managers trained to serve the corporate state. In a Faustian bargain with corporate power, many of these universities have swelled their endowments and the budgets of many of their departments with billions in corporate and government dollars. College presidents, paid enormous salaries as if they were the heads of corporations, are judged almost solely on their ability to raise money. In return, these universities, like the media and religious institutions, not only remain silent about corporate power but also condemn as “political” all within their walls who question corporate malfeasance and the excesses of unfettered capitalism.

Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with members who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated negotiators with the capitalist class. Cars rolling off the Ford plants in Michigan were said to be made by UAW Ford. But where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions in the early twentieth century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday, and Social Security, have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. The arts, just as hungry as the media or the academy for corporate money and sponsorship, refuse to address the social and economic disparities that create suffering for tens of millions of citizens. Commercial artists peddle the mythical narrative, one propagated by corporations, self-help gurus, Oprah and the Christian Right, that if we dig deep enough within ourselves, focus on happiness, find our inner strength, or believe in miracles, we can have everything we desire.

Such magical thinking, a staple of the entertainment industry, blinds citizens to corporate structures that have made it impossible for families to lift themselves out of poverty or live with dignity. But perhaps the worst offender within the liberal class is the Democratic Party.

The party consciously sold out the working class for corporate money. Bill Clinton, who argued that labor had nowhere else to go, in 1994 passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which betrayed the working class. He went on to destroy welfare and in 1999 ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks to turn the banking system over to speculators. Barack Obama, who raised more than $600 million to run for president, most of it from corporations, has served corporate interests as assiduously as his party. He has continued the looting of the U.S. Treasury by corporations, refused to help the millions of Americans who have lost their homes because of bank repossessions or foreclosures, and has failed to address the misery of our permanent class of unemployed.

Populations will endure the repression of tyrants, as long as these rulers continue to manage and wield power effectively. But human history has demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet insist on retaining the trappings and privileges of power, their subject populations will brutally discard them. Such a fate awaits the liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state. The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as corporate power pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy.

Postscript.

Planet Earth; just a grain of sand

In my last essay on love that was published on Friday, I quoted Carl Sagan, “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.Carl Sagan” My conclusion about love was:

… that if we don’t love our planet with all the ardour and passion of a teenager’s first romance, all those other loves in our lives will ultimately become irrelevant.

In researching for that essay, I visited Carl Sagan’s website, a rich source of information and materials for anyone interested in the far Cosmos right down to our future on this planet.

Just a little over three months ago, I wrote a post with the title of Carl Sagan with the objective of promoting his beautiful and awe-inspiring film called Pale Blue Dot.

Back to the present. On YouTube I came across this short video that seems so relevant to our need to love the only planet we have.

Carl Sagan explains the immensity of space and time in this clip is from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos episode 8, “Journeys in Space and Time.

“Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours. In every one of them, there’s a succession of incidence, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time.

And our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch-point in the history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, or greed, or stupidity we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissance.

But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars.”

Today, in the USA it is Memorial Day. The day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  It doesn’t seem out of order to reflect that all those courageous men and women died with a belief in the future.  That belief in the future surely must embrace “… using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet.

Still musing about love.

Five days of writing about love and none the clearer!

So here I am penning Friday’s post about love.  You will recall that on Monday I wrote:

In last week’s telephone conversation MaryAnne spoke so easily about love that I promised her that I would dedicate a post on Learning from Dogs to her.

In fact, rather than one post, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about love for the entire week, i.e. Monday to Friday.  I will readily admit that over and beyond today’s post, I don’t have more than the vaguest inkling of how the week will pan out.  You have been warned!

Ironically, up until yesterday things fell into place pretty easily.  But I must confess that today’s post has been a struggle. I read the love quotes over on the Brainy Quote website to find some inspiration.  None found.  Not that there weren’t many, many beautiful sayings but the incredible spread of quotations just magnified the difficulty of pinning down something to write about.

Then I did a web search for ‘love stories’.  Came across the story of The Lost Wallet.  It was moving but seemed too perfect a love story – try it yourself if you want.

Then back to the Brainy Quote website and once more meandered through the love quotes.  Saw this one.

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.Carl Sagan

That struck a chord.  A few hours earlier I had been sorting out my photographs and came across this one.

The Herschel Horsehead Nebula.
The Herschel Horsehead Nebula.

I had grabbed this image a month ago from the announcement on ESA’s website:

19 April 2013 New views of the Horsehead Nebula and its turbulent environment have been unveiled by ESA’s Herschel space observatory and the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope.

The Horsehead Nebula lies in the constellation Orion, about 1300 light-years away, and is a popular target for amateur and professional astronomers alike. It sits just to the south of star Alnitak, the easternmost of Orion’s famous three-star belt, and is part of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex.

The new far-infrared Herschel view shows in spectacular detail the scene playing out around the Horsehead Nebula at the right-hand side of the image, where it seems to surf like a ‘white horse’ in the waves of turbulent star-forming clouds.

It appears to be riding towards another favourite stopping point for astrophotographers: NGC 2024, also known as the Flame Nebula. This star-forming region appears obscured by dark dust lanes in visible light images, but blazes in full glory in the far-infrared Herschel view.

The image is staggeringly beautiful yet a potent reminder that man, even the totality of our planet, is such an irrelevance in the scheme of things.  We are surrounded by beauty both within and without, yet the fragility of our existance is a ‘vastness’, both literally and psychologically.

Guess what!  Writing that last sentence brought to mind a photograph that I took Wednesday afternoon. As part of the Land Stewardship course Jean and I are taking, the class had gone to the Limpy Creek Botanical area in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest not far from Grants Pass, Oregon.  Here’s that photograph.

P1130363

Reflect on the delicate beauty and vulnerability of that small wild flower. A perfect metaphor for the entire natural world.

So I am going to close this week’s perambulation through love with the thought that if we don’t love our planet with all the ardour and passion of a teenager’s first romance, all those other loves in our lives will ultimately become irrelevant.

Or as Carl Sagan put it:

Our mission is to awaken the broadest possible public to the wonders of nature as revealed by science.

Thank you, MaryAnne.

Going beyond the self.

Further reflections on reality and delusion.

I closed yesterday’s post with this quotation from Carl Sagan, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

So easy to write.  Nay, a thousand times more easy to trot out than to embrace.  Even that word embrace is too warm and fuzzy.

I’m sure that the human psyche lives in a bubble of delusion.  Clearly, if the level of delusion is abnormal then we can’t function properly as social animals.  Just take a moment or two to muse over the ways that you ‘shelter’ from reality.  Trust me I don’t exclude myself.

However, there are times when reality with a capital ‘R’ smacks us in the face.  Death of a loved one, unanticipated break-up of one’s marriage are two that come to mind.  Undoubtedly, there are others.

In yesterday’s post where I wrote of my experiences from reading Guy McPherson’s book, Walking Away from Empire, I freely admitted the struggle of embracing the truth, the Reality of where we are; ‘we’ as in industrialised man.

Aristotle
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

Reflect on the relationship that hope has with reality.  Aristotle wrote, “Hope is a waking dream” and that comes from over 2,300 years ago!

More recently, the aforementioned Professor wrote of hope:

With respect to the question, I spoke and wrote about hope way back in August 2007, when this website was launched. In that long essay — the bloated, unedited, transcript of a presentation I had delivered a few days earlier — I described hope as follows:

I view hope as the left-brain product of love, analogous to democracy as the product of freedom, or liberty. Notably, Patrick Henry did not say, “Give me democracy or give me death.” Like the rest of the founding fathers, Henry knew that freedom was primary to democracy; without the guiding light of freedom, or liberty, democracy breaks up on the shoals. Love keeps our left brain in check — that’s the message of the world’s religions. But our right-brain love creates the foundation for hope: love for nature, love for our children and grandchildren, love for each other. Without love to light the way, hope breaks up on the shoals.

Staying with Guy McPherson for a tad longer, over on Transition Voice there was an essay from him under the title of Sadly, extinction is no laughing matter.

Picking up on the Carl Sagan quote again (“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.“) McPherson writes:

Many people disagree with Sagan, choosing delusion over reality, believing we can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences for people or other creatures, other life forms, other organisms. The people in this latter group seek hope, and many of them disparage me and my actions for inducing despair.

Finally, though, I’ve concluded that hope is hopeless. As Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, “Hope is the most evil of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”

To put Ed Abbey’s spin on it, “Action is the antidote to despair.” So, even though I no longer think my actions matter for humans, I’ll take action.

A worthy pity party

Near-term human extinction is a difficult pill to swallow, as is economic collapse. But ignoring ugly truths does not make them any less true. Despair is an expected and appropriate response to this information. Recognizing, accepting, and moving beyond despair are important subsequent steps.

But first, let’s despair.

Ed Abbey’s idea that action is the antidote to fear reminds me of a recent essay from Alex Jones over at The Liberated Way.  (If you haven’t previously come across Alex’s writings trust me you will be inspired!)

That essay was How to change the world published on the 28th February last.  Here’s how it opens:

Changes to self acts as ripples of change to the world.

Throw a rock into a pool it creates ripples, eventually the pool grows still again.  Like the pool nature will move to a state of harmony if given the chance.

We all know that humanity and this planet suffer many challenges.  Many feel they need to change or improve the world.  Those people fail to realise that nature knows where the state of harmony is, and is attempting to get to that state of harmony, therefore one has no need to change or improve the world.

The reason those words jumped off the page at me (OK, screen!) was the key message that letting go of what man feels compelled to do and allowing the natural forces on this planet to reign supreme is the answer.  The message that we have to go back to the natural way of doing things.  Right back to the harmony that early man had with the planet before farming corrupted our values.

Alex’s essay continues:

The problem with the desire to change the world is it becomes a form of control, attempting to force others to do something they have no desire to do. One of the problems of humanity is control, everyone trying to control each other, self and nature, which ends in conflict where nobody but the strongest wins. The problem with control is choice, liberty and creativity is taken away from those being controlled, and there is no opportunity to gain wisdom from mistakes.

I have spent too many years of my life trying to change or improve the world. I won some battles, I lost others. Worse, I became sometimes no better than those I fought against. Often control made the situation worse. I am reminded of the Greek legend of King Sisyphus who was condemned to roll a boulder up a steep hill only to see it roll down again, an activity he was condemned to repeat for all of eternity. Trying to change or improve the world was my equivalent of King Sisyphus.

The answer is to be a ripple of change to the world by doing our own thing. By changing ourselves, by living our dreams, setting an example, we emanate ripples of change into the world. We transform the world by transforming ourselves. Remember that stone that splashed into the pool? We are the stone, our activities in making ourselves happy, healthy and abundant becomes the ripples of change into the world. We force nobody to do anything, since all our efforts are focused on ourselves, we show by example which others may copy. People will follow our example since they see what we do works.

It is hard to let go, but let go we must. Change is inside rippling outwards.

It’s the old adage about change.  It first has to start from within.  As I warned in yesterday’s post, “When you read this book brace yourself for what you see staring out of the mirror back at you. There will be no room left for delusion.

Ironically for a post that carries the title of ‘Going beyond the self” going out of oneself is the only way to see reality, to brush away delusion.  From which place one can then allow change from within to occur.

I shall close with a quote from one of my favourite authors Aldous Huxley:

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

letgo1

Walking Away from Empire; a book review

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Arthur Conan Doyle.

Ten days ago, I finished reading the book Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey. It had been sent to me by the author.

Let me explain how this came about.

A few weeks ago, I published an item under the title of Doggedly seeking the truth.  I included the video “The Twin Sides of the Fossil-Fuel Coin: Developing Durable Living Arrangements in Light of Climate Change and Energy Decline.“  That video was a presentation by Prof. Guy McPherson.

Subsequently, during an exchange of emails with Prof. McPherson there was an offer to receive a free copy of his book, Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey.  Naturally, I accepted.

Having finished reading the book it seemed only fair to write a review.

So far, so good!

I tried to marshal my thoughts for well over a week.   Couldn’t get started.  Strange, because when immersed in the book the messages were crystal clear.

Why the struggle to embrace Guy McPherson’s messages?  Then in a moment of insight I realised that I was struggling to understand why I was struggling!

walkingaway
Published by PublishAmerica, LLLP

Because the blunt truth of the matter is that this book spells out the bleedin’ obvious.  Humanity is between a rock and a hard place!

Look no further than the very first paragraph of the first chapter, Reason,:

At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.

Sandy Krolick of Transition Voice wrote a review of Guy McPherson’s book in September, 2011.  His last sentence was, “This is a book you will not put down; and having read it, you’ll no longer be able to ignore its conclusions.

Again, what Sandy Krolick writes is perfectly correct. No argument.  Yet …. something about that sentence from Sandy doesn’t speak to me.  That struggle again.

Then I got it!

Let me go straight to page 177 of Prof. McPherson’s book and quote this:

It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?

Then one paragraph later, come this:

There is simply no feeding the hollow spot in my gut and my psyche, as there was when I replaced my invisible, omnipotent friend in the sky with reason. Instead of abandoning the mirage of eternal life, I’m abandoning the mirage of globalization. Instead of giving up an everloving god, I’m giving up a comfortable life spent with my best friend. I’m taking yet another step in the path from make-believe to reality. And, as we all know, reality is a harsh, dispassionate mistress who doesn’t give a damn about the emptiness in my fragile little psyche. Fortunately, I still have the amusing memories of the absurdity of my former life, in which I believed I was saving the world by conducting and publishing mundane research and teaching irrelevant concepts to a largely disinterested audience.

I found the first step to be the most difficult. Simply recognizing the industrial economy as an omnicidal imperial beast forced me to cross a threshold most people find far too formidable to attempt.

Just reflect on those key words, “a threshold most people find far too formidable to attempt.”

Keep those words in mind as I quote the next paragraph from the book.

We’ve never been here as a species, much less as individuals. And every cultural message tells us we’re wrong, that the industrial age will last forever, that justice and goodness will prevail over every enemy (i.e., terrorist), that progress is a one-way street to industrial nirvana, that the harbinger of hope will keep the oil coming and the cars running and the planes flying so we can all soak up the sun on a sandy beach any time we need a break from our tumultuous lives in the cube farms of empire.

This, then, was the result of reading the book.  The realisation of the reality of our existence.  The immensity of the truth of where mankind is.  The here and NOW!

Sorry, let me amend those last sentences.  My realisation of the reality of my existence.  The immensity of the truth of where I am.  My here and NOW!

No wonder I struggled.

So not much of a book review, more a review of yours truly!  That is the power of this book.  Sandy Krolick was right; “This is a book you will not put down; and having read it, you’ll no longer be able to ignore its conclusions.

Be warned.  When you read this book brace yourself for what you see staring out of the mirror back at you. There will be no room left for delusion.

As Carl Sagan said, “It is far  better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Carl Sagan

How very precious, vulnerable and fragile is this precious place we call home.

Today’s consciousness perambulation is the fault of Mr. P., as I like to call him. I refer to Pendantry as he is on his blog, Wibble.

You see on Sunday he added a comment to my post Just a small, white dot! that included the beautiful and awe-inspiring film made by the late Carl Sagan called Pale Blue Dot.

carl-sagan

Like millions of others, I came to admire Carl Sagan through watching the fabulous, the truly fabulous, television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. (NB. All the episodes are on YouTube, Episode One is at the end of this Post, Ed.)  Here’s how WikiPedia opens their reference to Carl.

Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies.

He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Sagan is known for his popular science books and for the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which he narrated and co-wrote.  The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. Sagan wrote the novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name.

He died far too young and was a tragic loss to humanity.  The Carl Sagan web portal is here.

That 3:30 minute video Pale Blue Dot has, likewise, been seen by millions.  If you or someone you know hasn’t seen it, then you must pause now …

It’s practically impossible to watch that video and not embrace the central message from Mr. Sagan.  Here’s the transcript:

Our home from 6 billion kilometres. A very tiny dot against the vastness of space.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Tomorrow, I will stay with the theme of our beautiful planet. Hope you can join me.

Now spoil yourself and watch Episode One of Cosmos.

and it’s so insignificant!

Yesterday’s post It’s all we have showing the famous Earthrise picture taken from Apollo 8 generated a lovely follow-up.

One of the comments was from Mike Turner who wrote,

It’s all we have and it’s so insignificant!

The Pale Blue Dot

Mike included a link to an entry on WikiPedia about the tiny, small dot of light in the universe that is Earth, shown in a photograph taken by spaceship Voyager 1 from the edge of the Solar System on February 14th, 1990.  Here’s that photograph,

Planet Earth from 3,762,136,324 miles

Can you see our planet home?  Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. In a 2001 article by Space.comSTScI‘s Ray Villard and JPL‘s Jurrie Van der Woude selected this photograph as one of the top ten space science images of all time.

Carl Sagan later wrote about his deep feelings about this photograph.  That was almost 20 years ago and, as I reflected just a few days ago, human insanity still seems alive and well; it’s about time that the majority of us recognised the fragility and vulnerability of where we live.

Sagan’s words are reproduced here and should be read by every inhabitant of this planet.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. [my italics, Ed]

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

You may also wish to watch this video.

Thanks Mike for prompting this piece.