Sunday, 12 December 2010

love or fear?


Do you want to live in a world ruled by fear or a world ruled by love?

Christopher Dos Santos writes:"You will in fact always be building two homes: one of fear and one of love. You are informed that the home you live in, is the one most complete."

This sums up, very simply, what I mean by "old paradigm" and "new paradigm". The universe is asking each one of us to move our focus of attention from the old house of fear to the new house of love.

The basis of our existing "civilisation" is fear: fear of poverty, fear of scarcity, fear of losing employment, fear of illness, fear of death, and so on. The system is based on authoritarian control and exploitation of the masses by a greedy and elite few. The slavery of the masses is mainly voluntary, though there is very strong pressure to "conform" through media and societal brainwashing. Individuality is discouraged - the masses are expected to be "conventional" which means to copy everyone else, and not think for oneself. The chains that most of us wear could easily be slipped off, but the wearers do not notice this, or are afraid to try to escape.

This old paradigm has had its day, and is now following the law of entropy - the second law of thermodynamics that governs our physical universe - into chaotic oblivion.

A friend of mine recently observed that "you cannot buck entropy" and I disagreed with him. He is correct from the viewpoint of the old paradigm, the house of fear, where love does not exist, because it cannot be measured by scientific instruments... ok, most people do accept that love exists, but they associate it with romance, desire, need, taking.... that is not true love.

The new paradigm, which is rising subtly, and unstoppably, in the background, is the house of love, true love. True love gives. True love cares. True love shares. This new paradigm comes from the heart and is inherently spiritual, while the old paradigm is unashamedly materialistic.

The law of entropy does not apply to spirituality. Spirituality tends towards unity, towards perfection, simplicity, merging. Spirituality is holistic.

So we can stay in the old house of fear, shaking in our boots, as the walls of our existence come crashing down. We can react to this by lashing out in anger, or by losing our minds to terror.

Or we can embrace the house of love. The house of love offers inner comfort, joy, peace, and strength. The house of love brings us together with all of nature and all of creation.

It is our choice, each of us, individually. It is simply a question of where we focus our energies and attention: to the house of fear, or the house of love?

Which house would you prefer to live in?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

bring it on

Dan Hamburg writes, at Culture Change:
"the grave challenge of our time is not to reform the current system but to replace it"
and goes on to justify this statement in an interesting article. He ends with sentiments I heartily endorse:
Assuming we don’t succumb to nuclear Armageddon or a climate meltdown, a new and different world must arise. In fact, it is already arising in communities small and large both here and around the world. A new narrative -- one that redefines what it means to be “a good man or woman of our kind” -- is emerging, a narrative that celebrates community over competitiveness, stewardship over exploitation. It will advance a holistic approach to living in harmony with the physical world so that we may have an opportunity to experience an intellectual and spiritual world. It offers the possibility of a better existence for all living things, and even non-living things, on our planet.

Bring it on!
Yes, indeed!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

merging

I have just merged two other blogs I was keeping into this one, as part of a simplifying of my creative life. I am railing against the forces of entropy, by removing unnecessary complexity...

Accordingly there are many new posts now in the archive. Apologies for any upheaval or confusion. Normal service will now be resumed...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

woven from gifts

Community is nearly impossible in a highly monetised society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don't depend on your neighbours – or indeed on any specific person – for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it.

In former times, people depended for all of life's necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbours then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don't need anyone.I don't need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but the people are replaceable, and, by the same token, so am I.

That is one reason for the universally recognised superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, "I don't need you," lurks under the surface?.

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today's market system in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a "circle of the gift."

We are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration. Our independence is an illusion: we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and these institutions are fragile.

A gift circle reduces our dependence on the traditional market. If people give us things we need, then we needn't buy them. The less we use money, the less time we need to spend earning it, and the more time we have to contribute to the gift economy, and then receive from it. It is a virtuous circle.

Secondly, a gift circle reduces our production of waste. It is ridiculous to pump oil, mine metal, manufacture a table and ship it across the ocean when half the people in town have old tables in their basements. It is ridiculous as well for each household on my block to own a lawnmower, which they use two hours a month, a leaf blower they use twice a year, power tools they use for an occasional project, and so on. If we shared these things, we would suffer no loss of quality of life. Our material lives would be just as rich, yet would require less money and less waste.

Many of us no longer aspire to financial independence, the state in which we have so much money we needn't depend on anyone for anything. Today, increasingly, we yearn instead for community. We don't want to live in a commodity world, where everything we have exists for the primary goal of profit. We want things created for love and beauty, things that connect us more deeply to the people around us. We desire to be interdependent, not independent. The gift circle, and the many new forms of gift economy that are emerging on the Internet, are ways of reclaiming human relationships from the market.

Gifts inspire gratitude and generosity is infectious. When I witness generosity, I want to be generous too. In the coming times, we will need the generosity, the selflessness, and the magnanimity of many people. If everyone seeks merely their own survival, then there is no hope for a new kind of civilisation. In contrast to the age of money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.
The above was extracted from: A Circle of Gifts by Charles Eisenstein, which is very well worth reading in its entirety, and describes a practical method in which we can create our own circle of gifts communities.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

what do I know?


I know nothing. Its a sobering thought.... but I can't get away from it. I know nothing. Or, more precisely, I don't know whether I know anything or not.... I have many opinions... but no certainty. However, I am very good at being dogmatic, so at least I can appear to know something.... or to be foolish enough to think I know something.... It would be much easier to just admit that I don't know what I am talking about, than to try to defend my dogmatic views. It is easier still to just be dogmatic and make no attempt to back up my statements! That is the course I generally take. It is the course of the "know-it-all". Which is ironic, as I know nothing..... Of course the easiest course of all is to say nothing at all.... but where is the fun in that?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

normal natural telepathy

Regarding telepathy, Sheldrake has said, “I think all social animals have such fields…I think it’s a normal means of communication…I don’t think it’s paranormal, I think it’s normal. I don’t think it’s supernatural, I think it’s natural. I think it’s essentially a form of animal communication within groups.”
Elliot Edge

economically productive

Money, the ultimate object of worship among modern humans, is the most mysterious of human artifacts: a magic number with no meaning or existence outside the human mind. Yet it has become the ultimate arbiter of life—deciding who will live in grand opulence in the midst of scarcity and who will die of hunger in the midst of plenty.... The work of the mother who cares for her child solely out of love counts for nothing. By contrast, the mother who leaves her child unattended to accept pay for tending the child of her neighbor suddenly becomes “economically productive.”
David Korten

Monday, 15 November 2010

a number written on a piece of paper

This wonderful diatribe, from "The Limits of Incompetence" by Dmitri Orlov, needs no further comment from me:
The last vestige of sanity an American seems to be able to cling on to is in his ability to count his money. While he still has some money, he adds up his “net worth,” and the higher the number, the better he feels about himself. Once all he has left is debt, he adds up the money he doesn't have, and the more “credit” he has, the better he feels about himself, because of all the things he can still “afford.” And once he finally defaults on his loans and no longer has any credit, it is as if, in his own minds, he ceases to exist. “I lost everything,” he is apt to say, as if his earthly existence amounted to a number written on a piece of paper.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

the heart would never understand....

Someone asked the Dalai Lama “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know. Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back… but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then ...you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you."
(source unknown)

Friday, 12 November 2010

look out

Our culture encourages self-gratification. We are taught to focus on ourselves, rather than on each other. We have become self-centred and shallow, hurting each other as we mindlessly destroy the living planet that sustains us.

Look out. We are heading for a crash landing. We have to change our focus, from inward to outward. We have to look beyond our selfish desires. We have to get back in touch with the natural world around us, and with our fellow beings.

Slow down. Appreciate each other. Share with each other. Look out for one another.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

rebirth of the gift economy

Charles Eisenstein wrote, in Gift Economics and Reunion in the Digital Age, on Reality Sandwich
the only business model that makes sense for most digital content is the model of the gift: to offer it as a gift, and to receive gifts in turn.

Primitive economies were wholly gift economies, which was natural when each consumer was also a producer. Today, the dominant model for profit-making business is to control scarce resources and sell their produce, or the resources themselves, to people who need them...

Since then, scarce resources have, one after another, fallen under private control, while many resources that were once abundant have been made scarce. It is hard to make someone pay for something that they can easily procure themselves. The quintessential example is water, perhaps the most abundant substance on the planet, but made scarce today through our our separation from nature and the pollution and chemical treatment of the water supply. As a result, bottled water has been the number one beverage growth category over the last two decades.
..
With the Internet today, we again have a situation in which the source of (at least a certain kind of) wealth is equally available to all, and again in which the distinction between producer and consumer blurs.
..
The gift model is quite natural for digital content... the unit cost to deliver digital content has dropped to nearly zero. This dematerialization means that no depletion is incurred by giving something away. No matter how many copies of my book or recordings people download from my website, my store of them is not depleted thereby. Supply is infinite; therefore, according to the law of supply and demand, the natural price point is zero.

What, then, shall induce me to produce such content in the first place?.. It is the desire to give of our gifts in order to create a more beautiful world.
Here we see the selfish old control-based paradigm giving way to the sharing new paradigm of giving. This is an unstoppable shift, that will extend far beyond the digital realms. Soon we may even be able to find drinking water again without paying for it.....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

from the ground up

For all of the systems that fail, systems that have been built from the top down, we must build parallel structures from the ground up.
Stoneleigh at The Automatic Earth

high time for a new beginning

Me, I think it's high time for a new life, a new beginning, a new world, since there's something fundamentally amiss here...
Ilargi at The Automatic Earth

Thursday, 28 October 2010

sun struck

Enlightenment is an experience, not an idea. You feel struck by a burst of light. Suddenly the world is seen and felt as spiritual and eternal, rather than a day to day existence of drudgery and confusion. You feel totally alive, with a childlike joy, but without the child's fear of darkness. You feel wise, and you see everything with total clarity, You are lucid, filled with light. You see every person, every animal, plants, rocks, even the air, as alive and holy, united through the light that fills all existence. You are optimistic, energetic, and filled with wonder.

adapted from Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack

Sunday, 24 October 2010

black sheep


this sheep is a healthy one
lively, fit, and lean and strong
should be a credit to the flock
should be first class breeding stock
yet this sheep is under attack
just because its wool is black
mother says 'it would be right'
'if you had a coat of white'
shepherd says that you must go
off to where the the grass don't grow
you don't look like all the rest
because of this you are a pest
black sheep no one wants you here
you just fill us all with fear
in this world you must conform
must be no different from the norm
black sheep black sheep, go away
no one likes you anyway

April 2004, Mount Abu, Rajasthan

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

be not angry..

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be,
since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
Thomas à Kempis (thank you Global Disaster Watch)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

cosmic immortals


Life seems to be aiming at nothing less than the attainment of divinity. We are part of the process of evolution from amoebas to Cosmic Immortals. What are Cosmic Immortals? Cosmic Immortals are creatures who live anywhere in the universe they damn well please, travel as fast as they want to and never die. And that’s the idea of a god. A god goes anywhere, never dies and moves as fast as a god wants to move. That is what we are evolving towards gradually.
Robert Anton Wilson (thank you Reality Sandwich)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

beyond anger and frustration

As I read my usual sources of economic and political news and comment (see my "recommended" links to the right of this blog), it strikes me that the tone of most of them is getting increasingly angry and frustrated. I have already dropped my subscriptions to other writers for this very reason, and the way things are going I will soon be left with no source of economic and political news and comment which I am prepared to read. This may not be a bad thing at all, of course! When all mainstream news is mindless propaganda, and all the better informed sources in the blogosphere are doomy and gloomy when not rabidly raging, then the bliss of ignorance holds great appeal. I do like a bit of bliss. But anger and frustration are vibes I prefer to sidestep... I can generate enough of these myself without needing to import anyone else's...

It is of course, very difficult to look at our current plight and retain equanimity. It does appear that the human race, and Planet Earth along with it, has been sold down the river by a fearful cartel of grasping bankers, and their political puppets. And all for an elephantine pile of loot, none of which they can take with them from the early graves they are frantically digging for all of us. The futility and stupidity and callous greed now on display is mind-boggling. I doubt if any one of us ever imagined that the "powers that be" could become so titanically corrupt and self serving, while dumbing down "the people" into placid zombie "sheeple". Those few of us who are still awake gasp in awe as each new policy horror is unveiled. It turns out that George Orwell's bleak vision of 1984 was rather understated, and chillingly accurate, if a trifle premature. Truth is stranger than fiction, and much more scary.

Anyone who is trying to come up to fixes for this mess is wasting their time. Politics won't save us. Technology won't save us. Free Markets won't save us. Economics? That took us right here, directly! They are all part of the problem, or more accurately they are symptoms of the problem. All of our traditional systems are now hugely complex and bloated, and becoming increasingly dysfunctional. This is the Law of Entropy in action, as order descends inevitably into chaos. Our "civilisation" is now approaching total chaos. Our "leaders" only appear to be in charge. They have their clammy fingers on the "controls", but their manipulations no longer do what they expect. Those who grease the palms of our "leaders" are not in charge either, as they desperately up the stakes for one last round of "beggar thy neighbour". Meanwhile, the rest of us lose our wits to our technological toys, numb ourselves with alcohol and prescription drugs, and rigidly deny that there are fundamental and catastrophic problems with our whole way of life. It is too late to change direction now. We are going over the cliff edge at full throttle....

Every civilisation comes to an end. Ours is no different. But from the ashes of the old emerge green shoots of new life. These are not the mythical "green shoots of recovery" promoted by our media. There will be no recovery. There will be no economy. There will be no politics. There will be no commerce. Not in the forms we currently recognise. Anyone who clings to the vestiges of the old paradigm will very soon be swept away with it. Their lies death and despair, a black pit of unknowing emptiness. Base your life around old paradigm values, and your life will not be worth living. We have little time left to prepare ourselves for our new beginnings. We have to start by freeing ourselves from the old mindsets.

The old paradigm is violent. The old paradigm enslaves us. The old paradigm keeps us in darkness. Luckily for us, the old paradigm is now dying.

The new paradigm is heart centred. The new paradigm is loving. The new paradigm is compassionate. The new paradigm means sharing freely. The new paradigm is a return to nature, and a return to being childlike. We are going back to the garden. The new paradigm comes from the soul, not the ego. The new paradigm is a lotus blossoming in the stinking mud of the old paradigm. We can stick in the mud, in forlorn struggle, or we can waken up and smell the heady scent of the lotus flowers. The choice is ours.

harmony is peace
freedom is natural
wisdom is strength

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

joy

I was surprised, when I started meditating, that so much pleasure would result. Of course, people who meditate often talk about rapturous union with Being, or dissolution in the Divine, and these do sound very pleasant indeed. But I still didn't expect it, as if anything "spiritual" had to be austere, or subtle, or boring. Was I wrong! Apart from all the deeper benefits of meditation, the sheer volume of joy is astonishing. In my experience, it beats any other high.
from Meditation and "Drugs" by Jay Michaelson

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

God said

it's not me that you see, you're looking at yourself;
you're not praying to me, you're praying to yourself;
and you're not worshipping me, you're worshipping yourself;
and you will kill in my name and heaven knows what else,
when you can't prove I exist, so get over yourself;
just get over yourself...

extracted from the lyrics of "God Said" by Todd Rundgren

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

heads in the sand



Dr. Karl claims that the ostrich does many things, but hiding its head in the sand is not one of them. Awww, come on Dr Karl.... it is never a good feeling to have a belief, fondly cherished since childhood, brusquely debunked.

Wikipedia notes that Pliny the Elder wrote, 2000 years ago, that Ostriches "imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed."

So maybe the Ostrich has evolved in these 2000 years and has found a more effective strategy? Or maybe Dr. Karl is simply not looking hard enough....

Either way, it does seem that the great majority of the human race are now following the legendary example of our long-necked feathered friends. The problem that this causes - for those few of us who keep our heads above ground, and our eyes open - is that all we see around us is a bunch of arses...... not a pretty sight.

Should we simply kick these tempting targets? Or should we stamp on the ground in hope of startling them out of at least some of their denial? Or... my newly favoured approach is to raise my eyes upwards so that I don't notice them any more.... They are, in the words of Dr Karl: "foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish". And so I, similarly, ignore their posture and attitude, by pretending that their bodies have followed the example of their heads and magically vanished... It does feel a bit defeatist, but how can we help those who will not help themselves?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

the lion and the unicorn

What is it all about? The unicorn symbolises Scotland and the lion symbolises England, and they were fighting for the crown until they got married....

According to the nursery rhyme, the lion beat the unicorn all around the town.... And when he had beat him out, he beat him in again; He beat him three times over, his power to maintain.. Hmmm.. clearly written by an Englishman....



I was concerned about the chaining of the Unicorn, but that predates the union with the lion, as witness the pre-union coat of arms of the King of Scotland, to the right.

Wikipedia explains:according to legend a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast; therefore the heraldic unicorn is chained
So what's this about? The unicorn, a spiritual creature, a vegetarian, is considered so dangerous it must be chained up, while the rampant lion, a vicious and base carnivore remains unfettered? What kind of barbarism is this?




It is time to free the unicorn from its chains. No need to chain up the lion - it will be no match for an unchained unicorn.

Consider the tarot card for Strength: the Unicorn, in full possession of her own spiritual strength, easily subdues and tames the more base and physical lion. The lion lays down with the unicorn, in peace. No chains required.

The lion did not defeat the unicorn through strength. It did it through trickery. Through trickery the Unicorn was chained.



Unchain the unicorn!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

free the fail whale!


I feel very sorry for the poor old beast - trapped in a net and being constantly hoisted above the water by these pesky birds - I mean, I know that whales can breathe out of water, but I also know they are much happier in the water... anyway, why do they think a picture of a whale being tortured is going to make us happier about being caught up in their broken machinery? Are they saying: "leave us twits alone you tweeters, if you all just go away and do something else then we can get back in the water and suck on some plankton..."?

The twits have made some basic errors, as might be expected. They try to fix complexity with more complexity, which is like trying to cure a drunk by applying a barrel of whisky... oops our labyrinths are leaking... lets build a collection of labyrinthine monitoring systems so we can while away our days merrily watching just how badly it seeps... and lets add lots more squid in there... are we not clever? Look at our metrics! Almost everyone is now using our API to tweet - does that not show how clever we are?

Nope... try to tweet on the website and you get the tortured whale. Tweeters use the API apps out of desperation! Or, more often, they go somewhere else...

Look twits: your system requirements could not be more simple. Your only challenge is scale. Massive scale. There is an easy way to achieve massive scale, and a difficult way. The difficult way - the way of conglomeration - requires exceptional skill and loadsofdosh, such as only The Goog, and on occasion The Apple can muster. Otherwise, nothing works (think Micros&%t...). The easy way is distribution. Think Skype. Think Bittorrent. Think Internet. That's enough of a hint...

Let's save the fail whale. Cut the nets and set it free. Let the tweeters no longer burden the whale. Leave the whale out of it. Cut the nets and set it free. Let the tweeters do their own work, every one of them. If necessary, shoot those little tweeters who refuse to leave that poor whale alone... the time for placid acceptance has passed. It is now time for action! Free the whale!

Monday, 23 August 2010

not worth saving


Dale Pendell writes in his blog "The Retort":
An economy that is dependent on people buying things they don’t need... with money they don’t have, is not worth saving. An economy that has to grow just to cover its own debts is not worth saving. An economy dependent on the energy of fossil fuels to avoid collapse is not worth saving. Why is an economy where most of the profits go to one percent of the population worth saving?
..
Let the recession come. The earth needs a recession, badly, globally. The future needs a recession—not a “correction,” but a recession, and a long one. The earth needs a permanent recession. Society needs a permanent recession. It’s time to turn off the lights and to roll up our sleeves. There is a lot of work to do.

Thanks to KMO and his excellent C-Realm podcast for drawing this, and many other, inspirational sources to my attention.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

lest we forget...

Ilargi from The Automatic Earth writes:
the "economic recovery" we've been fed for a year now, is, and was always, fake. We never left the first dip, and so we can't enter a second one. And no, this is not a recession, it's a depression, one that Celente labels "the Greatest Depression". Yes, things will get a whole lot worse than they are today.

The Raw Story quotes Gerald Celente saying:
You're going to see it all over the world, what they call austerity programs ... What are they doing? They're bailing out the banks and they're making the people pay for it. And the people don't like that.
..
One of the good businesses to get in to may be guillotines, because there's a real off-with-their-heads fever going on.

However, Joe Bageant does not expect outright revolution:
when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington's political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class. For instance, they do not work for a living in the normal sense of a job, but rather obtain their income from abstractions such as investment and law, neither of which ever gave anybody a hernia or carpal tunnel. By comparison, the ruling class does not work at all.
..
Moneywise, Washington's political class is richer than the working class by the same orders of magnitude as the ruling class is richer than the political class.
..
the political class adopts the ruling class's social canon and presumptions, especially the one most necessary for acceptance: That the public has the collective intelligence of a chicken.
..
This political class stands between all of us down here and the tiny minority in the ruling class waaaaaay up there, wherever the hell up there is. No use to squint. You can't see it from where we are. That comes in mighty handy in denying the existence of a ruling class.
..
the smoke has now cleared, the money is in ruling class coffers, and a spin the bottle game for a few prosecutions is underway to entertain the crowd for the next few years.
..
Because the revolutionary destruction of the current economic system, bad as it is, would crash the country's economy even more quickly than the current process of theft, we are not likely to see an outright revolution that overthrows the ruling class.
..
the ruling class holds all the money, not to mention the media that informs the populace as to what is going on in our country. It controls our health care, our banking and retirement funds. It controls our education or lack of education, and it controls the price, quantity and quality of the food we eat. It controls the quality of the air we breathe, and soon, through pollution credits, even the price they will pay for that air. Most importantly, it holds concentrated legal and governmental authority
..
In the face of all this stands a very diverse public.. When your life and your family are so utterly controlled by persons and forces that you cannot even see, you don't take such risks.
..
the ruling class.. do not mind the wrath of the rabble, so long as it does not get in the way of the money.

However, Dmitri Orlov points out that those with the money are not happy either:
these are very difficult times to be rich. It used to be that having a million dollars made you a millionaire—but not any more! Now, to be perfectly safe and completely insulated from economic reality you need at least ten million, if not more, and the more you have, the more unnerving become the wild undulations of the financial markets and the dire prognostications of the experts. It is getting to the point that you can make a plausible guess at a person's net worth based on how nervous and miserable they look.
..
They have long forgotten what it means to be happy and carefree, and their labored attempts at feigning enjoyment are painful to watch. You can be sure that the sight of poor but happy people makes them quite livid.

Finally, in the words of James Howard Kunstler
because we're unwilling to re-scale and reform the things we do, nature is about to do it for us.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

the apocalypse and the awakening


Here are some extracts from Richard Grossinger's "Conversation with Andrew Harvey" in Reality Sandwich:
I don't see in an ordinary sense how anything is going to get fixed or is fixable at this point. In fact it doesn't even seem to be going in the direction of getting itself fixed; it seems to be going in the direction of getting worse and worse, and the people who are making it worse getting more power and asserting more prerogative....

We are impotent against the scale of physical and financial forces. As Obama says, we can't plug the hole.

There is absolutely no way in which this crisis is going to be fixed, because the whole point of this crisis is that it unravels, destroys, disintegrates, utterly, utterly annihilates all of the agendas and illusions and fantasies that human beings have created out of what you could call a collective false human self. Which is now terminally addicted to a false vision of the universe, a lust for power over every other species, a crazed hunger to dominate nature, and a totally unsustainable fantasy of limitless growth.

At the same time... our presence here is a participation in something much larger that is invisible to us - something that on some level is connected and connecting to other intelligences in the universe and the intrinsic intelligence of the universe itself. These realms are being informed by our situation in some way - we are receiving aid, advice, and godspeed from them despite how things are going here, despite the fact that it looks as though morons and madmen and crime bosses are informing everything.

Things are a mess and inextricable, but we are alive and conscious and filled with the song and heart and yearning of the universe. So I think it's important not to over-focus on "fixing" things in the ordinary sense: politically, ecologically, economically. It's impossible. Yet... we must act. We must do the right thing. Service is absolute and non-negotiable.

It's like both are true and wrapped around each other: the apocalypse and the awakening. Only the apocalypse writes itself glowingly and brazenly on the face of our times. The spiritual awakening is deep and subtle, hidden inside our gestation in the universe, our pagan, untold initiation that is written in the whole of nature, and in the sky.

What we are looking at is an appalling, dreadful, ferocious, inescapable dark night of the species, which is going to get worse, very, very fast. That is the bad news. But there's good news within the bad news because when you understand through divine grace, and through the flicker of the divine evolutionary intelligence shining on your mind and heart, that this radical ferocious process is the sign of an enormous new potential struggling chaotically to be born, then you can begin to cooperate with that birth.

The transformation of the human into the divine human... works through terrifying horror and extreme chaos and almost unimaginable violence.

it's too easy to think of the people who are fucking things up - in governments and corporations and narcissistic stupors and militias and crime cadres - as being in some sense in alliance with evil, or the devil. I mean, there are some pretty bad actions, pretty bad choices, pretty sociopathic behaviors on the loose on this planet. And yet, at some level, the energy that is flowing in to create those acts is sacred too, and has to be used in our transformation.

We all have to look at the collective shadow of the human false self, which we all participate in, and the despair and disillusion and desolation and death-wish and dread, that it has completely, almost, possessed us with which enables us to do nothing as the powers that be destroy everything.

One of the things we need to be doing is.. praying for those who are trapped in their roles as masters of the machine... from any kind of enlightened perspective, they are the ones who are suffering in obscurity and unconsciously the most. Because in killing and in massacring and in destroying the environment, they are laying waste to their own source, they are laying waste to their own psyches, they're living in an increasingly polluted psychic atmosphere.

The Dalai Llama, upon hearing of the slaughter of the Tibetan nuns by Chinese soldiers, wept. When asked presumptively if he was weeping for the nuns, he responded, rather fiercely, ‘No, their souls were okay.' He was weeping for the soldiers who killed the nuns. His deepest compassion is extended to the most brutal of his so-called enemies, because he knows that they are preparing (for themselves) an enormous stinking karmic grave.

Somehow we have to be able, through sacred practice, (to) create a crucible in which we can become strong enough to endure what we have to endure, to hold the heart open, to hold the dark and the sadistic and the tormented at the center of our hearts, and keep constantly praying for them so that they can be illumined by the light that sustains everything.

We can make daily extraordinary steps by constantly being vigilant over our minds, constantly trying, with all the chaos of our psyches, to move toward compassion and true tenderness in our relationships with others... This is the foundation from which all manner of things can flower.

Any true act of empathy and compassion has resonances through known and unknown universes and domains, because everything is interrelated in unimaginable and mysterious ways.

The situation we're enduring is particularly horrible because something enormous is at stake: a birth of the divine in matter. The birth of the divine in the human through the catastrophic, apocalyptic violence of a dark night, is not for this Earth alone, which is why those forces that oppose it are so hysterical and violent.

This is known in the mystical traditions as supreme enlightenment (whereby) the whole universe is elevated.

That was the sacrifice of Christ, to use his body to break down a barrier between realms, to demonstrate that transformation and rebirth are possible, and nothing can intercede. It's a love beyond division. It's a love beyond reason. It's a love beyond agenda. It's a love beyond results. And if you can allow yourself to surrender to that love, that love has the power of resurrection within it, at its core.

In its own demonic way, the new cult of the suicide bomber is an expression of the lost divine and a direct attack on materialism. In a certain symbolic way, 9/11 remarkably resembled the Tower Card in the Tarot, down to the fine details. The suicide attacks are.. a direct confrontation with materialism... They are attacking the heart of a great materialist blasphemy.

(They are saying that) there is nothing whole about our culture. We are driven by greed. There's a kind of free-floating, dark promiscuity which is attacking so much of what is sacred about love and emotion and passion. The whole of our culture is in the hands of a few corrupt business-people.

Here are people who for all the wrong reasons, and a few of the right ones, are truly prepared to give up their whole lives in the name of a passion for a new world.

If only the New Age had the passion of the suicide bomber... If they had the passion, the commitment, and the sincerity... in fact, just the sincerity would do it. That's what's missing in the New Age... and the capacity to give your whole life for a transformation you want, which is what's going to be asked of us.

To galvanize people... first of all you connect them with the divine consciousness within them, secondly you give them the disciplines that really sustain that consciousness, and, thirdly, you help them follow their heartbreak and follow something they can really do in the real world to help the real agony of the real exploding real crisis. If you really see that the world is dying - and that means that not only your psyche is going to be destroyed, but that the world that you love is dying, that if you have children your children are going to inherit desolation - if you really see that, if you really allow yourself to feel it, if you really stop intellectualizing about it, but start feeling it and feeling it from the divine within you, then you will be driven, you will be driven to find something that you must do just to stay human.

The new paradigm is based on spirituality, a subtle rising wave of awakening. The old paradigm, based on control and greed, is now looking increasingly ugly day by day, as it tears itself apart in front of our eyes. The transformation from the familiar old ways to the new and unfamiliar ways will be forced on us if we don't take the initiative. We can be destroyed as part of the problem, or we can participate as part of the solution. Awareness is the first step to awakening.

Are you ready "to give your whole life for a transformation you want"?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

nobody reads this


The good thing about nobody reading my blog is that I can write whatever I like and I don't get hassled for it.... I don't have to moderate comments or even read them...

The bad thing about nobody reading my blog is that I can be lazy and not bother writing anything at all....

The terrible thing is that I have another blog which some people do read, and instead of writing for them I spend my time hiding here and writing on this blog..... so I am not only uninteresting, but antisocial as well, not to mention ungrateful.... but then, which of us is perfect?

Anyway, I have better things to do, like wordring and being a twit, not to mention playing with my gmail status... in fact, anything to avoid facing the flock....

Sunday, 15 August 2010

breaking out of the shell

Tired of your egg-shaped universe? Don't wait for time.... time waits on you.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

mystical experiences


The following is adapted from Soul and Spirit by Patrick Harpur:

Mystical experience is intuitive. There is a sudden illumination in the dead of night, or a flash of lightning in the darkness. A single mystical experience may last only a minute but be a defining moment in one's life, a yardstick against which the truth of subsequent mundane experiences are measured.

Mystical experiences are difficult to talk about, as they transcend language, and are intensely personal. They are given, by the grace of God, and cannot be induced by willpower. They are more important to us than our normal state, and infinitely more meaningful. They are revelations of reality. No one says after the experience: "I see now that it was all a dream or a hallucination or a delusion, but now I've come to my senses." They say the opposite: "Ordinary life seemed like a dream in comparison to the reality I saw." At the same time, ordinary things are not distorted as they can be in dreams. Everything is the same as usual, but more vivid, colourful and above all charged with significance.

Here I will consider three categories of mystical experience: visions of nature, visions of the beloved, and visions of God.

Visons of nature.

In visions of nature, every object is imbued with significance and importance. Everything is a presence. Everything is ensouled. Everything is holy. Everything is awe-inspiring. The ego is abolished, and one is neither self-conscious nor detached, but conscious of one's self in intimate participation with every other self. There is no desire, except to continue in that state of one-ness.

Jacob Boeme, a Protestant mystic, was sitting in his room one day in 1600 when "his eye fell upon a burnished pewter dish which reflected the sunshine with such marvellous splendour that he fell into an inward ecstasy, and it seemed to him as if he could now look into the principles and deepest foundations of things. He believed that it was only a fancy, and in order to banish it from his mind he went out into the green fields. But here he noticed that he could gaze into the very heart of things, the very herbs and grass, and that actual nature harmonised with what he had inwardly seen."

In 1969, Derek Gibson was travelling to work by motorcycle when he noticed that the sound of his engine had faded to a murmur. "Then everything suddenly changed. I could clearly see everything as before with form and substance, but instead of looking at it all I was looking into everything. I saw beneath the bark of the trees and through the underlying trunks. I was looking into the grass too, and all was magnified beyond measure, to the extent that I could see moving microscopic organisms! Then, not only was I seeing all this, but I was literally inside it all. At the same time as I was looking into this mass of greenery I was aware of every single blade of grass and fold of the trees, as if each had been placed before me one at a time and entered into."

Bernard Berenson: "It was a morning in early summer. A silver haze shimmered and trembled over the lime trees. The air was laden with their fragrance. The temperature was like a caress. I climbed up a tree stump and felt suddenly immersed in It-ness. I did not call it by that name. I had no need for words. It and I were one."

The vision of Nature in our culture most often occurs in childhood or adolescence, before we have become "educated", or in those people who never lost the child-like perception of Nature.

Wendy Rose-Neill had an experience while gardening. She suddenly became intensely aware of her surroundings: the scent of grass, the sound of birds and of rustling leaves. "I had a sudden impulse to lie face down in the grass," she said, "and as I did so, an energy seemed to flow through me as if I had become part of the earth underneath me. The boundary between my physical self and my surroundings seemed to dissolve and my feeling of separation vanished. In a strange way I felt blended into a total unity with the earth, as if I were made of it and it of me.... I felt as if I had suddenly come alive for the first time, as if I were awakening from a long deep sleep into the real world.... I realized that I was surrounded by an incredible loving energy, and that everything, both living and non-living, is bound inextricably within a kind of consciousness which I cannot describe in words."

Visions of the beloved

In visions of nature we experience the multiple, non-human, impersonal soul of the world. In visions of the beloved we experience the soul of a single person. This can happen in an instant, as in love at first sight. You are in awe, in the presence of your beloved. There is sexual passion, but not lust.

This kind of love is expressed in the medieval tales of courtly love of a knight for his unattainable lady. This is the template for our modern idea of "romantic" love, which we believe transforms the lover's character for the better. Although we believe that we all have a right to fall deeply in love, the pure vision of the beloved is a rare experience. However, many of us are tortured by a more selfish romantic form, an unrequited desire for some remote beauty, perhaps an unattainable film star or pop icon, or a senior boy or girl at school. There is no question of friendship, companionship, or shared interests.

In visions of the beloved, the love we have for the beloved is pure and unselfish, as in love for God. This love for a beloved is a short step away from loving God, and from loving all of creation. We see beauty and grace. The beloved is angelic. The sexual passion is an expression of yearning for two souls to merge and become one.

In such a love, the beloved is all-important: all relations to other people, or to the world, pale into insignificance.

In our divine form as immortal souls, we are all one with God. When incarnated in human bodies we experience separation. Separation brings suffering. The wish to merge with a beloved is an earthly expression of the longing of the soul to leave the body and merge once again with God.

But we tend to invest too much in other individuals - family, children and friends as well as lovers - more than they can bear. This leads inevitably to disappointment when our beloveds turn out not to be the idealised divine figures we adore. The paradox is, that we can only truly love each other when we also love something beyond each other.

A vision of the beloved is a vision of divinity. We are seeing the divine soul, and through that we are connecting with God and all of divinity. Where this connection with God comes first for both partners, the pure love for each other can be mutual and lasting. This is reflected in the idea of getting married "in the eyes of God". But where there is selfish desire, we want total absorption of the other, body and soul, into our own self. This is a hopeless desire, which brings jealous possessive rage, anguish, despair, and emptiness. The beloved becomes unattainable. So, we must each put God first, as God is pure and wholly selfless. Then we can see the reflection of God in our beloved, and we can feel it in ourselves.

We must also both be able and willing to imagine ourselves in the other's shoes. This requires faith in each other, and imagination. There is then an exchange: "I am in you" and "you are in me". This is very similar to the experience, in visions of nature, of you being "in" everything and everything being "in" you.

Visions of nature are impersonal: we lose our personal selves in the one-ness of all of creation. Visions of the beloved are personal: we connect with the divine through the person of another. The lover becomes a personal deity.

Visions of God

Visions of God tend to happen when we let go of all desire. We wait in the darkness and love rushes in. From emptiness we become full. We experience union with the divine light. We experience oneness with God.

Unlike visions of nature or of the beloved, visions of God are seldom spontaneous, but require preparation, such as meditation, fasting, prayer, or self-denial. We go through a "dark night of the soul" in which we let go of all human longing and knowledge, and become truly humble. Then God comes to us.

There are no words to adequately describe the encounter with God. But it is often described as light or as fire, within or outwith the self, with a blissful feeling of unlimited comfort and understanding.

Union with God can also be seen as union with one's own soul or higher self. The soul is at one with God and of the same divine nature, and so union with the soul implies union with God also. Union with one's self simply means letting go of the false lower self or ego, and allowing the true inner self to shine through. However, many find this "simple" approach difficult to practice and prefer to approach God directly.

Whether we go within or outwith to find God, the aim is the same: union with the divine.

Monday, 9 August 2010

why be vegetarian?

Physically, we are what we eat - a healthy diet produces a healthy body and a healthy mind. Our psyches also are strongly affected by our diet: energies are taken on board through our diet, and the gentle energies of fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes produce lightness, and aid meditation.

I eat a vegetarian diet - here are some of my reasons:

1 - karma - I don't take on the karma of the slaughter of animals - meat is murder

2 - vibration - vegetarians are less aggressive and gross, and are more gentle and subtle - this can be seen clearly in the animal kingdom

3 - animal welfare - I detest the practices of modern farming, particularly in relation to cruelty to animals

4 - energy - vegetarian diet is much easier on the digestion system, and so you have more energy and vitality

5 - clean-ness - vegetarian food is much cleaner (try looking at raw meat under a microscope), and much less likely to poison

6 - pharmaceuticals - farm animals are pumped full of antibiotics and other drugs, residues form which remain in the meat

7 - less fear - the fear vibrations of animals about to be slaughtered remain in the meat, and are taken on board by the eater

8 - ecology - vegetable and grain farming consumes much less of the planets resources, per meal, than animal farming

9 - economic - vegetarian diet is cheaper

I also prefer my food to be organically produced, and with as slittle processing as possible. Nature provides food that is wholesome and alive. Our bodies are part of nature. The energies of nature sustain us. When we adulterate the work of nature with chemicals, or by extreme mechanical processes, the food loses its vitality and natural balance. When grains are over-refined - white flour, white rice, etc. - we have thrown away most of the nutrition in them, and we have made them un-whole.

Many people who eat a vegetarian diet do not understand food balance, and thus become unhealthy. Doctors recommend them to eat meat again to regain their health, but in fact the meat will only cause them other health problems, not to mention the psychic and spiritual damage caused by taking on board the energies of bad animal husbandry and the slaughterhouse. The answer is to eat wholefoods, with minimal processing - to vary the diet, and to include foods that provide the trace elements which most people rely on meat for - foods such as seaweeds, miso, tamari, and tempeh are a great help for a healthy vegetarian diet.

I learnt a lot from macrobiotics - while I don't subscribe to every macrobiotic tenet, the focus on the balance of the diet, the energies in the food, the wholeness of the food, the denial of greed, and the attitude towards diet of "my body is a temple", all lead to good health of body, mind and soul.

Friday, 23 July 2010

A “NO” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “YES” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.

Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

meditation


Learning to meditate changed my life, very much for the better. Where there had been a dark and scary void in the centre of my being, regular meditation gradually replaced that with a radiant warm golden light. This inner light is now always accessible to me and is a source of great comfort and strength. Regular meditation makes me happy and clear thinking.

Meditation is all about mental focus. You aim to quieten the chattering of your mind, and to enter a state of calm and bliss. This is the Beta state we enter naturally between sleep and wakefulness, but in meditation, we aim to hold that state. Once this is accomplished you can then go further, into deeper states of consciousness, which I will describe elsewhere.

I practice a stripped down form of Raja Yoga, where the physical aspects of yoga are dispensed with, and the focus is on mental yoga or "union" with the divine. This meditation is done with eyes open, so that it can be practiced even whilst walking around. For me, the primary "yukti" or method is visualisation of the light within me. I aim to meditate first thing each morning, for half and hour to an hour or more, and then again for brief periods throughout the day. A key facet of Raja yoga is that you aim to be in a "soul-conscious" i.e. yogic state at all times, throughout the day, whilst working, eating, playing, even whilst sleeping! Now I am able to meditate "on the fly" whenever I feel the need - e.g. if my mind is racing or chaotic, or I am feeling challenged or disturbed. A few moments of calm and focussed inner reflection can re-charge you for hours.

When possible, I prefer to meditate within a group. We sit in a room designated only for this purpose, and focus on a candle or light or picture in front of us. There is incense burning, and calm meditation music playing, interspersed with periods of silence. I find that the discipline of being in a group helps me focus more strongly, and for longer. Also, when there are powerful meditators in the group then they lift the 'vibe' of the meditation room, enhancing the experience for others: this is particularly helpful for beginners, who might otherwise struggle to focus.

Some of the most powerful experiences I have had in meditation involved "drishti" i.e. spiritual vision. This is a communication of third eye energies between two souls - it involves looking into each other's eyes, whilst in a yogic state - third eye energies travel between the two participants. When you give someone drishti, and they give you drishti back, there is an intense experience of blissful energy being exchanged. It does require both participants to be in an elevated state of consciousness at the time, and then the experience will elevate your state of consciousness further.

A key factor relevant to the meditation experience is the atmosphere of the place of meditation. It is far easier to meditate in a room which has been used effectively for this purpose over a period of time. Thus, purpose built meditation rooms, temples, and some churches and chapels, serve you well. On the other hand, once you are accomplished, it It is a good test to try to meditate in an place with a base or chaotic energy, for example a supermarket or shopping mall - if you can achieve a blissful yogic state in such an environment then you are doing well! Such efforts make us stronger.

Meditation requires practice and persistence, but the results are very much worth the effort. An experienced yogi can meditate anytime and anywhere, and the yogic state becomes their everyday state of consciousness. This is what I am aiming for.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

devolution

Mankind has not evolved, but "devolved", from giants who once walked the earth, to a near animal state... vowed to cataclysmic annihilation, while an evolving elite gathers all of human experience for a resurrection in spirituality.

Schwaller - quoted by Colin Wilson in "From Atlantis to the Sphynx"

Monday, 19 July 2010

change

You must be the change you hope to see in the world.

Gandhi

Sunday, 18 July 2010

religion and the new spirituality


I love spirituality, but I do not much care for religion. Religion can be a gateway to spirituality, but it can also be a cage, preventing us from going deeper. If we go deep enough into any religion, then we end up at the same place, in the golden light of universal truth, in enlightenment. However, as soon as we say that "our belief" is true, and that the beliefs of others are false, then we have adopted a religious ideology. And then religion becomes a trap.

Religions are based on control, on authority, on a hierarchy. Religious authorities tell us how to worship, and how to behave. They depict God as external, and only reachable through that religion. They require that we follow their directions, and do what we are told.

In the new spirituality, we are not told what to think or what to do. We are our own best authority, as we work to know and love ourselves. We learn to listen inside, and discover how to live a more spiritual life.

The old way says that there is only one true path, and that all other ways are wrong.

The new spirituality says that many paths lead to spiritual freedom and peace.

We have a rich array of gems from which to draw illumination: the world's religious traditions, mythology, psychology, healing methods, scientific wisdom, and most of all our own experiences. We each take a personal selection from these gems, and string a necklace all of our own.

stop thinking - start living

There is only now, the present moment. The past has passed away, and we cannot alter it. The future is unknown, and we cannot predict it with any certainty.

Thought absorbs energy. We waste our energy when we think about the past or the future. And when we are thinking, we miss the present moment.

So, stop thinking. Enter the present moment. Start being. Shift attention to now.

This is a very conscious state. You are conscious, but thinking much less, or perhaps not at all.

Invite moments of stillness into your life. Escape from the mental noise of thinking.

Be still with a flower, or a crystal, or a bird. Nature can draw us into inner stillness. Flowers are not anxious, not concerned about tomorrow. Look at them, and see their beauty. Feel their magical presence.



Stop labelling people, things, and situations. Stop analysing, and just perceive. Let the mind become still, and experience the moment. Feel it.

When we are in our heads, we are not present. We are lost in thought.

So, pull your attention away from thinking, towards observing, towards feeling, towards being.

The world around us is vitally alive, but when we are absorbed in thought, it seems lifeless and dead. Don't let the mind grab your attention. Become like a child, alert and alive once again.

Stop thinking. Start living.

fluid and free

The peoples of the earth will no longer be shut off from one another within states but will flow freely over the surface of the earth and intermingle. Man will be forced to realize that power must be kept open, fluid and free. His aim will be not to possess power but to radiate it.

Henry Miller : Sunday After the War

Saturday, 17 July 2010

wise

Yesterday I was clever,
So I wanted to change the whole world.
Today I am wise,
So I am changing myself.

Sanjiwan Kumar

two thieves

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.

Fulton Oursler

Friday, 16 July 2010

what am I?


What am I? I am a soul. I am a conscient being of light. I inhabit a human body. This is temporary. I am not this body. I have this body. I wear it like a costume. It is my body, for a while. When it is worn out, I will cast it off, and put on a new body.

I am eternal. I am indestructible. I am blissful. I radiate love and light. I am mighty. My powers are unlimited. I am one with all other beings. We are in union. We are one. We are divine.

We are here on planet Earth to experience separation. It is all a game. We are playing in our garden. We are playing roles in a great drama. I am not my role. I am the actor that plays the role.

I have a body, but that body is not me. I have a personality, but that personality is not me. I have thoughts but these thoughts are not me. I feel emotion but that emotion is not me. All of these create a false sense of self. I am not these. I am the life force that animates the body. I am a spiritual being. I am life itself. I am divine. I am. And so are you.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

a living for all

According to the activist and economist David Korten, the goal of a life-serving economy "is to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few."

Marisa Smith in Reality Sandwich

Saturday, 27 February 2010

the futility of planning

How do we prepare for a future that is very uncertain? What do we know of the future? What do we KNOW of the present, even? Everything I write and say might be wrong. There may be no old paradigm and no new paradigm. Everything that everyone else writes elsewhere about the impending collapse of our financial systems, our political systems, our civilisation, climate change, peak oil, over-population, may be misguided also. Humanity has a long and rich history of predictions of a doomed and disastrous future which failed to materialise. In all probability, some of us somewhere will be correct in some of our conclusions and pontifications, but realistically the only thing we really know about the future is that we cannot accurately predict what will happen.

Now, planning for the future requires that we have a clear vision of what the future will bring, or at least that we can see a limited set of alternative outcomes that are reasonably likely. When we don't know where we are heading, we cannot plan our journey. All we can do is prepare for whatever eventualities we can envisage, and then hope for the best.

I argue that the current state of play in human "civilisation" on planet Earth has become so volatile and so fragile and so uncertain, that the only safe conclusion we can reach, rationally, is that there are going to be big changes, and soon. We cannot, rationally, conclude with any statistical certainty, what exactly these changes are going to be. Among those of us who think about such things, some predict apocalyptic outcomes. Others believe we can find technological solutions to all of our problems. Others, using history as a guide, take a middle ground and see a slow and bumpy decline in our civilisations down to a new dark age, from which will arise in due course a new civilisation. Meanwhile, most of the population prefer not to think about such things, and confidently expect "business as usual" to resume any day now, in line with what the mass media keeps telling them. None of these predicted outcomes can be proved. I believe that any simple rational and scientific analysis will tell us that a resumption of "business as usual" is simply impossible - in other words that change is inevitable. But, beyond that, rational analysis only provides fodder for intellectual discussion and argument - it does not produce any certainty, or near certainty, or even substantial likelihood, of any one outcome over another.

We cannot plan meaningfully for such an uncertain future. All we have to go on are vague ideas of what a solution might be like. Success or failure can be known only in retrospect. Meanwhile, we can only prepare ourselves in such a way as to maximise our resilience to catastrophic change. Improvisation is the order of the day, and we should focus on the basics of survival - sustainable water, food and shelter. If those who predict apocalypse are right and the end is indeed nigh, then it really won't matter much what we do in the interim. On the other hand, if the dreams of the technologists are even valid, then where is the resource and political will going to come from to build these imaginary technologies in time to save us from ourselves? I don't see the magic wand. It is already far too late - we have passed the tipping point. We have sleepwalked our way through the last few decades and missed the train of "sustainable techno future". In the more distant future we may evolve an advanced lifestyle based on sustainable technologies, but our children and grandchildren will have lived their lives and died long before we get there - meanwhile we will have to somehow cope with the collapse of our existing way of life. So the technologist dream becomes just one of the possible outcomes of the middle way, whereby we are heading into a century or more of decline and disintegration of our "civilisation", out of the ashes of which a new civilisation, largely unimaginable to us, will eventually blossom.

No amount of planning and rationality can tell us the detail of how things will go. My own proclamations about the future and our way ahead, are based on the irrational - on visions and realisations attained through meditation. I put much more faith in feelings and intuition, than in judgement and rationality. I believe that we are transitioning, as a race, from rational thinkers who have deluded ourselves that we are in control of nature (old paradigm), to intuitive beings who know that we are at one with nature (new paradigm). I cannot back up what I say scientifically, not least because I have no interest in doing so. I may be completely wrong, but it feels very right! I see golden light where others see black smoke. You must read my writings and judge for yourself - hopefully I will touch a chord in some of you, or light a spark. Others will simply shake their heads and will move on to graze in more rational pastures and I wish them good luck - we all have different paths to tread.

(from spiritualsun.org)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

composting

Our current extravagant, energy-wasting lifestyle is not sustainable. We have to move now towards a more sustainable and holistic way life, and we already have a range of technological options available to us to help achieve this. Perhaps the simplest and most accessible of these is composting: a practical, and ecologically elegant way of boosting and maintaining soil fertility, which also highlights key principles central to a new paradigm economy and society.

Most of the compostable food, garden, and farm waste we generate currently goes into landfills, rather than being recycled into fertile soil. In "Little Steps that Matter", and "A Theology of Compost", John Michael Greer writes about this potential resource, contrasting between the "monumental absurdity of industrial society’s linear transformation of resource to waste, on the one hand, and the elegant cycle of resource to resource manifested in the humble compost bin on the other":

Those of my readers who have compost bins know how much of their own kitchen, garden, and yard waste goes into it; my wife and I generate between two and four cubic feet of compostable waste in an average week. All of it goes into a compost bin of black recycled plastic in the back yard. So does another cubic foot or so per week from a friend’s kitchen; his living situation doesn’t permits him to have his own compost bin, so he contributes to ours. All the peelings and scraps and moldy bits from the produce that passes through our kitchen and his go into the compost pile, along with garden weeds, plants that have passed their season, and other forms of yard and garden waste, leavened with double handfuls of dried leaves saved from last autumn. Those are the only inputs, other than a little labor with a shovel once a month or so to keep the pile turned and working. Once a year, the hatch at the bottom of the compost bin disgorges the output—black, damp, sweet-smelling compost, ready to be worked into our garden beds.

This output is potent stuff. The first garden my wife and I planted started out as a patch of bare dirt on the north side of an urban apartment building, so poor and barren that even the most rugged of the local weeds made only half-hearted forays into it. Two years of double-digging beds with home-brewed compost turned it into a lush cottage garden that yielded shade-tolerant vegetables and medicinal herbs three seasons of the year, and supported some of the biggest earthworms I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. Given a reasonably good mix of raw materials – which an ordinary kitchen and garden provide quite well – compost is a balanced soil amendment that works over the long term, improving fertility, tilth, and pH balance while providing a good mix of soil nutrients.

Properly handled, the composting process also takes out unwanted seeds and pathogens. Decomposition generates heat – 150° to 160°F is a fairly common temperature for the core of a good compost pile – and that sort of heat over weeks or months will kill anything in your compost you don’t want there.

It’s possible to make compost on an industrial scale — and there are businesses and public utilities that do this — but compost is not well suited to the industrial model of agriculture. It works best when applied in intensive small-scale gardening, where it can be combined with other low-energy but labor-intensive techniques for maximizing soil fertility and productivity. Composting is… a bridge – or part of a bridge – that reaches beyond the end of the industrial age… (With) soaring fossil fuel prices turning industrial farms and their far-flung distribution networks into economic basket cases… local micro-farms and market gardens, and the co-operatives, farmers markets, and community-supported agriculture schemes that give them a market outside the existing system, are guaranteed steady and dramatic growth.

In a decade or so, in fact, American agriculture may well resemble nothing so much as the agricultural system of the Soviet Union in its last years, with huge and dysfunctional corporate farms filling the role of the sprawling industrialized kolkhozii while a large proportion of the food people actually eat comes from backyard garden plots.

It’s in that secondary economy of small gardens and micro-farms that composting has its place – and just as the collapse of the Soviet Union would have been far more devastating in human terms without the underground economy that kept people fed, the downward arc of the industrial age can be made less traumatic if technologies such as composting, relevant to an underground food economy already being born, become widely distributed and practiced in the near future.

Thus the homely, humdrum, and vital art of composting offers a model for the kinds of adaptive, flexible, and scalable responses… we need to locate and deploy… If the twilight of the industrial age is going to be anything but an uncontrolled crash, it’s one of the little steps that could actually make a difference.

What makes composting such a useful template for a (new paradigm) society is precisely that it highlights the ways such a society would have to differ from the way things are done in today’s industrial civilization. Some of the crucial points of difference that come to mind are these:

First, where industrial civilization converts resources into waste, composting converts waste into resources. The core dynamic of today’s industrial economies is a one-way process in which fossil fuels, other energy sources, mineral deposits, soil, water, air, and human beings, among many other things, are transformed into waste products – directly, in the form of pollution, or indirectly, in the form of goods and services that go into the waste stream after the briefest possible useful life... A society that burns through its supply of necessary resources while heaping up progressively larger volumes of toxic wastes is going to run into trouble sooner or later. Composting reverses the equation by turning waste into a resource and meeting crucial needs – and there are few needs more crucial to a human society than food production – using wastes that would otherwise be part of the problem.

Second, where industrial civilization works against natural processes, composting works with them. At the center of contemporary Western ideology is the vision of progress as the conquest of nature, and this way of thinking has backed industrial societies into an approach to natural processes that sees them as obstacles to be overcome – or even enemies to be crushed. The result is the sort of massive misuse of resources visible in modern agriculture, where conventional farming methods convert soil into something approaching a sterile mineral medium, and farmers then have to buy and apply an ever-increasing volume of fertilizers and soil additives to make up for the fertility that natural cycles in healthy soil provide all by themselves. Composting, by contrast, works because it fosters the natural processes that break down organic matter into healthy humus. There’s no need to add anything extra, or to go shopping for the lively mix of bacteria, fungi, and soil fauna that makes the miracle of compost happen. To borrow a Hollywood slogan, if you build it, they will come.

Third, where industrial civilization requires complex, delicate, and expensive technologies to function at all, composting – because it relies on natural processes that have evolved over countless millions of years – thrives on a much simpler and sturdier technological basis… Set the factory complexes, energy inputs, and resource flows needed to manufacture NPK fertilizer using conventional methods, (against) the simple bin and shovel needed to produce compost from kitchen and garden waste, and the difference is hard to miss. Imagine that your small town or urban neighborhood had to build and provide energy and raw materials for one or the other from scratch, using the resources available locally right now, and the difference becomes even more noticeable.

Fourth, where industrial civilization is inherently centralized, and thus can only function on a geographic and political scale large enough to make its infrastructure economically viable, composting is inherently decentralized and can function on any scale from a backyard to a continent. Among the many reasons why a small town or an urban neighborhood would be stark staring nuts to try to build a factory to produce NPK fertilizer is that the investment demanded by the factory equipment, energy supply, and raw materials would be far greater than the return. A backyard fertilizer factory for every home would be even more absurd, but a backyard compost bin for every home is arguably the most efficient way to put composting technology to use.

Fifth, where industrial civilization degrades exactly those factors in its environment that support its existence, composting increases the factors in its environment that support its existence. In a finite environment, the more of a nonrenewable resource you extract, the more energy and raw materials you have to invest in order to extract the remaining resource; and the more of a persistent pollutant you dump into the environment, the more energy and raw materials you have to invest in order to keep the pollutant from interfering with economic activities. Thus industrial civilization has to climb a steepening slope of its own making, until it finally falls off and crashes back to earth. By contrast, the closed loop that runs from composting bin to garden plot to kitchen and back around to composting bin again becomes more effective, not less, as the cycle turns: rising nutrient levels and soil biota in the garden plot lead to increased harvest, and thus to increased input to the compost bin.

Finally, where industrial civilization is brittle, composting is resilient. Earth is not a safe place. In a time of turbulence, systems that are dependent on uninterrupted access to resources, unimpeded maintenance of intricate technologies, and undisturbed control over geographical areas of the necessary scale to make them economical, face a much higher risk of collapse than systems that have none of these vulnerabilities.

Now of course many other sustainable technologies embrace one or more of these same factors. As yet, however, not many of them embrace all of them. Even technologies as promising as metal recycling have a long way to go before they become as scalable, self-sustaining, and resilient as composting.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

the new agriculture

In this third set of extracts from John Michael Greer blog posts on organic agriculture, he elaborates on the inherent superiority of this new paradigm approach over the established industrial methods of feeding ourselves.

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/12/agriculture-closing-circle.html

It’s extremely common for people to assume that today’s industrial agriculture is by definition more advanced, and thus better, than any of the alternatives.

(But) in a crucial sense – the ecological sense – modern industrial agriculture is radically less advanced than most of the viable alternatives.

In any field you care to name, sustainability is about closing the circle, replacing wasteful extractive models of resource use with recycling models that enable resource use to continue without depletion over the long term.

The first known systems of grain agriculture emerged in the Middle East sometime before 8000 BCE, in the aftermath of the drastic global warming that followed the end of the last ice age and caused massive ecological disruption throughout the temperate zone. These first farming systems were anything but sustainable, and early agricultural societies followed a steady rhythm of expansion and collapse most likely caused by bad farming practices that failed to return nutrients to the soil. It took millennia and plenty of hard experience to evolve the first farming systems that worked well over the long term, and millennia more to craft truly sustainable methods such as Asian wetland rice culture, which cycles nutrients back into the soil in the form of human and animal manure, and has proved itself over some 4000 years.

(In) industrial farming… the nutrients needed by crops come from fertilizers manufactured from natural gas, rock phosphate, and other non-renewable resources, and the crops themselves are shipped off to distant markets, taking the nutrients with them. This one-way process maximizes profits in the short term, but it damages the soil, pollutes local ecosystems, and poisons water resources. In a world of accelerating resource depletion, such extravagant use of irreplaceable fossil fuels is also a recipe for failure.

Fortunately… the replacement for this hopelessly unsustainable system
is already in place and beginning to expand rapidly into the territory of conventional farming. Modeled closely on the sustainable farming practices of Asia… organic farming moves decisively toward the recycling model by using organic matter and other renewable resources to replace chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and the like. In terms of the modern mythology of progress, this is a step backward, since it abandons chemicals and machines for compost, green manures, and biological pest controls; in terms of succession, it is a step forward, and the beginning of recovery from the great leap backward of industrial agriculture.


So there we have it: Greer promotes organic agriculture on the grounds of sustainability. But it also works on a spiritual level, as a holistic approach to feeding ourselves and nurturing the planet.

The old paradigm industrial agriculture tries to control and regiment and exploit nature, and in doing so it destroys the land. The new paradigm organic agriculture co-operates with nature, gives back what it takes, and promotes diversity and a vibrant living earth.

We should celebrate the timely emergence of this wonderful technology for the future - and we should embrace it joyfully and immediately - for, without it we will soon be starving.

organic food and farmers markets

The rising movements of organic agriculture and farmers markets are a prime example of new paradigm forces establishing themselves before the old paradigms of industrial agriculture and global food distribution hit the wall of diminishing energy resources.

In this second sets of extracts from John Michael Greer blog posts on organic agriculture, he describes how we are already evolving the means to feed ourselves sustainably.

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/12/agriculture-price-of-transition.html
One of the great gifts of crisis is supposed to be the way it helps sort out the difference between what’s essential and what’s not.

At the top of the list… are the immediate necessities of human life: breathable air, drinkable water, edible food. Lacking those, nothing else matters much. The first two are provided by natural cycles that industrial civilization is doing its best to mess up, but so far the damage has been localized. There are still crucial issues to consider and work to be done, but the raw resilience of a billion-year-old biosphere that has shrugged off ice ages and asteroid impacts is a powerful ally.

Food is another matter. Unlike air and water, the vast majority of the food we eat comes from human activity rather than the free operation of natural cycles, and the human population has gone so far beyond the limits of what surviving natural ecosystems can support that attempting to fall back on wild foods at this point would be a recipe for die-off and ecological catastrophe. At the same time, most of the world’s population today survives on food produced using fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources such as mineral phosphate and ice age aquifers. As the end of the fossil fuel age approaches, other arrangements have to be made.

This poses a challenge, because nearly every resource currently used in industrial agriculture, from the petroleum that powers tractors and provides raw materials for pesticides, through the natural gas and phosphate rock that go into fertilizer, to the topsoil that underlies the whole process, is being depleted at radically unsustainable rates.

If today’s industrial agriculture were to keep chugging away along its present course into the future, the results could be disastrous.

but this is not going to happen…
The industrial agriculture we have today … evolved as farmers and agricultural corporations took advantage of the abundant energy supplies made available by the exploitation of oil reserves in the 20th century… As energy and other fossil fuel products become more expensive, farmers have a strong incentive to use less of them, and to replace them with other resources.

Adaptations in the other direction are already taking place. The organic farming revolution, the most important of these, may be the most promising and least often discussed of the factors shaping the future of industrial society.

Because it uses no chemical fertilizers and no pesticides, organic agriculture is significantly less dependent on fossil fuels than standard agriculture, and yet it produces roughly comparable yields. It has huge ecological benefits – properly done, organic agriculture reverses topsoil loss and steadily improves the fertility of the soil rather than depleting it – but it also translates into a simple economic equation: a farmer can get comparable yields for less cost by growing crops organically, and get higher prices for the results. As the prices of petroleum, natural gas, phosphate rock, and other feedstocks for the agrichemical industry continue to climb, that equation will become even harder to ignore – and in the meantime the infrastructure and knowledge base necessary to manage organic farming on a commercial scale is already solidly in place and continues to expand.

As fuel prices continue to climb, tractor fuel and transportation costs are likely to become the next major bottlenecks.

The renaissance of horsedrawn agriculture is one adaptive response moving steadily toward the takeoff point. After a long period when diesel was so much cheaper than feed that horses no longer made economic sense, the balance is swinging the other way, and farmers are waking up to the advantages of “tractors” that run on grain and hay, rather than expensive diesel fuel, and can be manufactured in a horse barn by the simple expedient of letting a stallion in among the mares.

Transportation … is a thornier problem (but) local farmers markets have sprung up over the last decade, and much of the produce sold in them comes from small local farms. In cities where the farmers market movement has set down strong roots, the economics of modern farming have been turned on their heads, and farms from 10 to 100 acres located close to the city have become profitable for the first time in many decades. Once again, the infrastructure and knowledge base needed for further expansion is taking shape.

Adaptation is always possible, but it’s going to come with a price tag, and the results will likely not be as convenient, abundant, or welcome… That can’t be helped. Today’s industrial agriculture, and the food chain depending on it, after all, were simply the temporary result of an equally temporary abundance of fossil fuel energy, and as that goes away, so will they. The same is true of any number of other familiar and comfortable things; still, the more willing we are to pay the price of transition, the better able we will be to move forward into the possibilities of a new and unfamiliar world.