The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

God's Message To The World (Book Review)

What’s a review of a book titled God’s Message To The World1 got to do with a blog dedicated to community development and social justice?  The answer lies in a couple of paragraphs on p 2 of the book.  There, Walsch makes the following observations:
“Not one of the systems we have put into place to make life better on this planet is working.  Wait.  It’s worse.  Not only have the systems we have put into place failed to produce the outcomes for which they were intended – they are actually producing exactly the opposite.”
In the next couple of paragraphs he notes that our political systems are increasing disagreement, our economic systems are increasing the gap between rich and poor, and out ecological systems are increasing environmental degradation.  Furthermore, he notes, our health systems are increasing inequality of access, our educational systems are increasing the knowledge gap, and our social systems are increasing disparity, disharmony, and injustice.

At the heart of these failures, according to Walsch, is that “our spiritual systems are increasing righteousness, intolerance, anger, hatred, violence, and war.”

Why?  What is the fundamental reason for these failures?  The answer lies in the book’s subtitle.

Following the main title God’s Message To The World, is God’s message – You’ve Got Me All Wrong.  Walsch outlines seventeen understandings that we have got wrong about God.

Walsch is best known for his series of books titled Conversations With God, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into 37 languages.  God’s Message To The World is a condensation of many of the messages found in that series of books in Walsch’s own words. 

Before proceeding, for those readers who may be put off by the use of the word God, perhaps you might like to think of God as; the Essential Essence, the Prime Source. The Creator and The Created, First Cause, or Pure Energy.  In the end, God (in Walsch’s understanding) is “made manifest through the experience and the expression of Love.”

Indeed, one of the seventeen misunderstandings about God that our major religious systems teach is that God is a superhuman male being.  Walsch notes that God is not superhuman and certainly not male.

Other misunderstandings outlined by Walsch include:
  • God is the be feared,
  • God demands obedience,
  • God determines what is right and wrong,
  • God honours self-sacrifice, long-suffering, and martyrdom,
  • God is on our side,
  • God is separate from us.
Looking at this short list of just half-a-dozen (from the 17) teachings, it is easy to see how things would change immensely if they were seen for the misunderstandings that they are.  For example, if we no longer believed that God is on our side, and that God honours martyrdom and self-sacrifice, most of the war and violence in the world would cease.

The biggest mistake we have made about God is the final one in the above list – God is separate from us.  Irrespective of our religious belief, or even non-belief, most of our cultural beliefs separate us from God, gods, or the divine.  Furthermore, by extension, these beliefs separate us from each other, and separate us from nature and other sentient beings.  Think about it, this one belief may be the most important belief we need to challenge.  If we were to annul this belief, s Walsh says, “It would change everything about just about everything.”

In this book, Walsch tells us that:
“All things are One Thing.  There is only One Thing, and all things are part of the One Thing there is.”
After enunciating a number of different words we have given to this One Thing, Walsch easily states,
“The One Thing may also be called, simply: Life.” 
This blog has often noted the inter-connectedness of everything, often quoting Thich Nhat Hanh’s notion of inter-being.  This non-separation, this concept of non-other is certainly a theme in my book – Opportunities Emerging.2  A further theme that this blog, and my book, refer to is that the way we approach the world, and the way we attempt to bring about social justice, has less to do with what we do, and more to do with who we are.  In a word, more to do with our consciousness.  These two themes are addressed in a highly accessible, and engaging manner in Walsch’s book.

Read it and ask yourself – have we got God’s message to the world wrong?

Notes:
1. Walsch, Neale Donald, God’s Message To The World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong.  Rainbow Ridge Books, Virginia, 2014.

2. meder, bruce, Opportunities Emerging: Social Change in a Complex World, Rainbow Juice Publishing, Coffs Harbour, Australia, 2017. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Is Social Justice A Goal?

Have you ever considered that social justice may not be a goal at all?  It sounds like a strange question doesn’t it?  Of course, social justice is a goal.  What could be more just than the pursuit of fairness, equity, and empowerment?  What could be more just than reducing inequality, overcoming poverty, or getting rid of oppression?

Yet, I think the question is one that is worthy of consideration.  Is social justice a goal?

When we think of goals, or targets, or visions then we tend to think of the future, of something yet to come about.  We set a goal and then devise plans and strategies to get from here to that future state.  And therein may lie the trap.  Goals suggest that we are not there.  We are stuck in the present, and the goal is in the future.

How about this question: What is the best way to get from here (little social justice) to there (social justice existing)?  The answer may be as simple as: act as if. 

Act as if social justice is a reality.  Act as if everyone were treated fairly.  Act as if equity exists.  Act as if inequality is no more.

This may sound facile, yet, I ask you: take a little time to think of the implications.

What if, right now, with everyone we meet, we acted fairly?  What if, right now, with everyone we meet, we act as if we are all of equal value.

Would anything change?

I strongly suspect things would change dramatically.  Plus, we would have the added benefit of not having to get bogged down in plans, goals, targets, and strategies.  And, if we weren’t bogged down in these things, then we might find we had a whole lot of creative energy to spare.  That surplus energy might be useful in our present dealings with one another, and with our relationship to the earth.

Its worth considering isn’t it?  Is social justice a goal?
Or, do we act as if social justice already exists?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Best We Can Be

What better way to start the year than with a discussion about being the best we can be?  I want to begin the discussion by considering two words: optimum and optimism.  Optimum means the most favourable situation possible.  Optimism means to be confident about the future or be sure of success at something.

Both words derive from a Latin root – optimus, meaning “the best.”

So, both words have a sense of being the best possible. 

What does being the best possible mean as we head into a new year?

Optimum

Often the word optimum, and its associated verb (to optimise) gets conflated with words like: maximisation of profit, the greatest on Earth, or sometimes even victorious and powerful.  However, to associate these concepts with optimisation is incorrect.  It is possible to optimise a situation or system without having to maximise it.  It is also possible for something to be maximised, yet end up  along way from an optimum.

The classic story of “The Tragedy of the Commons” illustrates this well.  The Tragedy of the Commons was the name of a pamphlet written by the English economist William Forster Lloyd in 1833.  In it Lloyd tells of the grazing of the Commons - a common parcel of customary land in English villages.  If one, or more, herders grazed more than their allocated number of cattle on this land, then overgrazing would occur.  Thus, if individual herders maximised the number of cattle they grazed then everyone (including those that maximise their herd) would suffer.  The optimum in this case was less for each individual herder than the maximum each herder could theoretically graze.

Another metaphor that illustrates this is to think of a fish pond.  Suppose the pond carries twelve fish.  Each day, four people fish the pond, and each night each remaining fish spawns two new fish.  How many fish can each person take each day?

The answer is just two fish each.  Simple arithmetic tells us that if each of the four people take two fish each (eight fish in total) then the remaining four fish will spawn eight fish overnight, meaning there are twelve fish in the pond the next day.  However, if just one of the people fishing takes three fish (assuming the others take two each) then the following day there will be just nine fish.  If the same thing happens the next day, i.e. three people take two fish each and the fourth takes three, then there will be no fish left in the pond, no spawning will take place overnight.  By the third day there will be no fish in the pond for anyone.

It is a simple metaphor, yet it illustrates William Lloyd’s concept well.  Optimisation does not mean maximisation, or vice versa.

Optimism

Martin Seligman has written as much as, if not more, than anyone else about optimism.  He notes that, faced with the same misfortune that pessimists face, the optimist “tends to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case.”1  There is research suggesting that pessimists are more likely to see reality accurately, but then get bogged down by that reality, becoming depressed, inactive, lacking in drive, prone to poorer health, and tend to catastrophise.  An optimist, on the other hand, will make plans, be happier, tend to live longer, and often be friendlier.

It is the optimist who plants seeds, waters the garden, removes the weeds, and waits months for the new crop.  It is the optimist who puts money into a fund for their 3 year old child to be used for the child’s university education.  It is the optimist who sees the opportunity in the problem (contrasted with the pessimist who sees the difficulty in every opportunity.)2

Seligman notes that it is possible to learn optimism, yet counsels us to heed pessimism.  Sometimes, the pessimist warning is worth noting.  As we head into the new year (I am writing this on 1 January 2018) there are warnings all around us.  We would be wise to heed them, but not allow them to dampen our optimism.

When we heed the pessimist warnings, yet proceed with optimism we are being the best we can.

The best we can be may be to bring these two words (optimum and optimism) together.  If we proceed with optimism and we see the optimum in any situation or system then we can all be the best we can be.  If we seek the optimum (not the maximum) then we will have cause to be optimistic about the future.  We become the best we can be.

Notes:
1. Seligman, Martin, Learned Optimism, Random House, Sydney, 1991

2. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Time For A Break


Rainbow Juice is taking a break for a couple of weeks.  Thanks to all my readers.  Best wishes for the end of the year and the beginning of the next.  I'll be back in early 2018.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

We're All In This Together

Eastern spirituality has known this for millennia.  Some aspects of western spirituality have also acknowledged it.  Since the beginning of the 20th century a few branches of science (notably quantum physics and Complexity science) have begun to understand it.  A few proponents of change have also expressed the idea.  Some within the social change movements have also spoken of it.  What is it?

It is this simple truth: we are all in this together.

We are all part and parcel of the same phenomenon.  We are not separate.  I am you am I, and together we are we.

Although this truth may be acknowledged, expressed and referred to, the full implications of its meaning and significance are still to be made manifest.  We (especially those of us living in western styled societies) remain locked into the myth of separation.  This myth proclaims that: I am separate from everyone else, and I am also separate from nature.  This idea of separation is a cultural myth – perhaps our deepest cultural myth.  Being such a deep cultural myth it informs everything we do, say or think.  And… we often don’t realise it.

If we were to fully accept our connectedness then we would realise that however we treat another person, or nature, then we treat ourselves the same way.  Thus, if we ridicule another, mock another, mistreat another, or do violence to another; then we ridicule, mock, mistreat, or do violence to ourselves.

We may not think we do so, but at a deep level, often unconscious, within ourselves we are doing so.  We become our thoughts.  There is a saying, often attributed to the Buddha, but in truth, lost in anonymity. However, it contains immense wisdom:
“The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care;
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.”
When we fully accept the truth of these words and the notion of non-separation then we change who we are, we change our way of being, and in doing that, we change our way of acting.  Significantly too, we change the way we see others and the world.  We begin to see the world through an entirely different lens.

Instead of problems, we begin to see opportunities.  Instead of enemies, we begin to see people with the same needs, desires, hopes and dreams as us.  When we view the world in this way we find that the world begins to change. 

And, when we do that, we look at social change through entirely different eyes.  We realise that the only real change is in ourselves and in our everyday interactions with those around us, including those with whom we may have disagreements, even those we may have even thought of as enemies.


Yes, we are all in this together. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Sometimes I Just Sits

This week I want to revisit a post from a few years ago, because I still think it is relevant and important for us to remember.  In a complex and chaotic world we can get seduced into thinking we need to do something, or that we need to fix something.  Sometimes, we just needs to sit.

So, sit back and enjoy this short video.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Lighten Up

How many of us have experienced the discomfort of doing something, or acting in a way which contradicts our ideas, values, or beliefs?  I would guess that most of us have experienced this discomfort, and possibly done so many times.  In psychology it is called cognitive dissonance.  We can experience a similar discomfort when we are confronted with information that contradicts our values or beliefs.  It is uncomfortable, and we will often do anything to overcome the pain and remove the contradiction.

In classic psychology, we attempt to remove the contradiction (or dissonance) in one of three ways:
  1. We can change our actions  or our beliefs so as to conform with the new information,
  2. We can seek new information that conforms to our present beliefs and so eliminates the contradictory information.
  3. We can lessen the importance of the contradiction, so that it does not bother us.
We could think of these three mechanisms as: change, justify, or downplay. 

From my experience, the first of these is the one we are least likely to do.  Why?  Because of belief systems.  We all live within a set of beliefs that interconnect and enhance one another to build a whole system of beliefs.  Most of us, as we grow up, come to adopt the prevailing belief systems of our parents, our schooling, our friends, our work colleagues, our church, our political affiliation, or whatever.  At a macro level, we tend to adopt the belief system of our culture. 

Our cultural belief system includes the outwardly showing phenomena of sports, architecture, music, literature, and the other things we associate with culture.  Our cultural belief system, however, also includes the sometimes hidden aspects of things such as: our attitude to elders, children, strangers; our notions of time and space; whether we are competitive or cooperative; what we think of death and dying; manners and courtesy; how we define beauty or ugliness.

Our belief systems are extremely powerful, to a large extent because we are often unaware of them.  It has been suggested that asking a person to describe their culture is rather like asking a fish to describe water.  Our belief systems surround us, contain us, and direct us, mostly without us noticing.

So it is that when we are confronted with information that contradicts our beliefs, we are extremely unlikely to change our actions or beliefs because of that new information.  Furthermore, our belief systems are how we come to see ourselves, how we define ourselves, and hence, become a means by which we portray ourselves in the world.  In short, our belief systems help define our sense of self.  And, changing who we are and our sense of self is something we are very reluctant to want to do.

So, what do we do?  We resort to one or both of the other two mechanisms.  Justify or downplay.

Justification is easy.  We can all find information or research which seems to confirm the beliefs or values we already hold, even when the weight of contradictory information would suggest otherwise.  Again, psychology has a term for this as well – confirmation bias.  This bias is especially strong when we are faced with emotionally charged situations or issues, or when the contradictory information is at odds with deeply held beliefs.

It is little wonder then that in social justice work, or other similar work, we can often see polarisation occurring. 

Now, here’s the crunch.  What if we - those of us seeking social justice, or a more sustainable world – are experiencing cognitive dissonance and are justifying our own beliefs and values through a process of confirmation bias?  Do we ever stop to consider that?  Or do we simply believe we are right, we are correct in our ideas and beliefs?

If the world is to become more compassionate, more respectful, more peaceful, then all of us need to hold our beliefs and belief systems lightly.  This is at odds with much of the western approach to social change, wherein the social change activist is exhorted to “hold tight to your values or dreams.”

Holding lightly, however, means not being attached to our belief systems in such away that we cannot relate with other people, other cultures, or other belief systems.  This does not imply rejecting our belief systems – we need these in order to navigate healthily in the world.  Its about recognising that all of us can be subject to cognitive dissonance, and that all of us can find ways to confirm our own beliefs.  All we need, as some would say is to – lighten up.