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.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Throw Down The Sword

“I have to be a warrior, a slave I cannot be
A soldier and a conqueror, fighting to be free.”
So went a couple of lines from the 1972 song “Warrior” by the English rock band Wishbone Ash. Man the Warrior has been, and still is, a “legitimate” career and profession for many men, with a number of countries now also permitting women to join the front-line of their militaries.  Man the Warrior has also been a prevailing archetype for many men for centuries, possibly millennia.

Men have been the the conqueror, the hunter, the provider, the powerful one in the interplay between men and women.  Today, many of these gender role divisions are breaking down and being redefined and redistributed.  And, not before time.

However, the warrior image remains embedded within men’s psyches and modes of being.  Even parts of the men's movement continues to give credence to the image.  Many writings on masculinity suggest four archetypes: King, Magician, Lover and WarriorA number of attributes are associated with The Warrior archetype, including; purpose, vigilance, courage, adaptability, decisiveness, loyalty, skillfulness, discipline.

The warrior metaphor, unfortunately, also conjures up images of power over, hierarchy, aggression, conflict, dominance, competition, and uncomplaining stoicism.  This image has marched young men off to war at the decree of hawkish political leaders.  This image has led men to become the puppets of captains of industry and capitalism.  Psychologically and emotionally the image has been elemental in the high incidence of mental health issues for men.  All three of these effects of the Man as Warrior metaphor are linked.  As an example consider the fact that the number of US war veterans who commit suicide significantly outnumber the number killed in active service.
 
The psychiatrist and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) researcher, Bessel van der Kolk, relates the story of a Vietnam War veteran he was working with.  When the veteran heard the wails of a child he “found himself suddenly flooded with unbearable images of dying children in Vietnam.”  This is just one aspect of the psychological impact of PTSD on men.

But trauma can be brought about by a compounding of incidents.  Men are cajoled to contain their emotion from a very early age.  Men are pressured to “man up” from their teenage years onwards.  Any sign of “feminine” emotionality or unmanly behaviour (such as gayness, bisexuality, or transgender tendencies) are likely to lead to being bullied.  After decades of this onslaught is it any wonder that men may be experiencing sublimated PTSD?

Not only is this warrior image damaging to men, it is devastating for women, children, other cultures, and the planet as a whole.  The domineering and hierarchical images within the warrior metaphor lead directly to misogyny, domestic violence, rape, environmental destruction and war – the crucible of the warrior.

I Don’t Have To Be A Warrior

But we men do not have to be warriors.  We can, and are, transcending this archetype.  Years ago Carl Jung asserted that within men there were the same qualities as within women , and vice versa.  Men can tap into these qualities: qualities of compassion, empathy, forgiveness, humility, and most importantly vulnerability.  We men must shed our armour of invulnerability, lay down our shield of invincibility.  We must throw away our swords of domination and aggression. 

There are signs that men are doing so.  For many men this a frightening journey because it challenges most of the stories that we have been told about what a  man is.  This should not prove too difficult though.  After all, one of the stories that we get told is that, as men, we must face our challenges.

Yes, we men must put aside the Man as Warrior archetype.  Interestingly, when Wishbone Ash recorded the song “Warrior” for their 1972 album1 the song that followed was “Throw Down The Sword.”

Men – it’s time to throw down the sword. 


1. Wishbone Ash, Argus, Decca Records, 1972

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

A Smile to Break the Ice

They’re called icebreakers – those quick, fun, active games that get thrown into workshops, seminars or symposia.  Some are used to deliberately interrupt a session to relieve possible inattention.  Some have a learning element.  Some are used just as the name suggests, to break the ice, and have a bit of fun.
 
What better way to break the ice than with a smile.  Smiles can be contagious.  Try walking down the road and smiling at people.  More often than not you’ll be rewarded with a smile in return.  Here’s a quick icebreaker game that uses smiles - and frowns.

1.  The facilitator asks participants to pair up.
2.  Once in pairs, ask the pairs to quickly touch one another on the shoulder.  Then announce that the person who was quickest to touch the other is person A and the other is person B.
3.  Have the pairs face each other.  Then announce that when you say “go” person A is to smile and person B is to frown.  Advise participants to keep their eyes open during the game so that they can see the face of the other person in the pair.  This game is best done without either person in the pairs speaking.
4.  Tell participants to relax and to allow whatever happens to happen, to not force anything. 
5.  Say “go” and let the pairs see what happens.
6.  After half a minute or so announce the end of the game.
7.  Ask for feedback, comments, or insights.  Get a show of hands as to how many pairs experienced the smile passing from person A to person B.  Ask if the opposite happened for any pair (i.e. the frown passed from person B to person A).

Smile Research

There is a well known saying that advises
 “smile and the world smiles with you, frown and you frown alone.”
In 1991 two researchers from North Dakota State University decided to test this age-long piece of wisdom.1`  They studied the likelihood of someone responding to a smile with a smile, a frown, or a neutral response.  They looked also at what happens when the subject is faced with a frown.  Their results showed a clear support for the wisdom of the ages.  Over 50% of their subjects responded to smiles with a smile.  However the likelihood of a frown eliciting a frown was significantly less – about 7%.

The researchers also studied the difference between men and women.  What they found suggested a definite difference between the sexes.  Women were more likely to respond to a smile with a smile irrespective of the gender of the person offering them a smile.  Men, however, were more likely to respond to a smile with a smile if the person offering the smile was a woman. 

Both sexes responded to a woman’s smile with a smile themselves with about the same incidence.  However, if the smile originated from a man the likelihood that a man would respond with a smile dropped by almost one-half, whereas for women there was no noticeable difference.

The likelihood of a frown eliciting a frown in response was very low with a variety of other responses being more prevalent, ranging from bewilderment to neutrality.  It was noticeable that if the originating frown came from a man then the likelihood that the response would be another frown was higher than if the original frown came from a woman. 

Why the difference between men and women?  The researchers did not offer much speculation on this beyond suggesting that “although males are capable of intimate interactions, they choose not to.”  What is going on?  Is it an evolutionary throw-back to times when male leaders of a clan were unwilling to enter into an intimate interaction with other males for fear that they might be wanting to overthrow them?

If this is so, then men must seek to find the key that will allow them to find release from this trap.  The days of domination and hierarchies are dissolving and men must look to their consciousness and hearts to find ways to feel comfortable in a new reality.

Put a Smile in Your Bag of Tricks

Those facilitating community development or social justice processes have a bag-of-tricks that they go to for various situations.  This icebreaker game is one that you can pop into that bag and help to elicit some smiles in your workshops.

Note:

1. Verlin B Hinsz & Judith A Tomhave, Smile and (Half) the World Smiles With You, Frown and You Frown Alone, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 17, No 5, October 1991, pp 586-592 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Happy Polluters

The Happy Planet Index formula
This week two events occurred that need to be thought of together.  The World Happiness Report 2016 was released, and on 8 August the Earth reached Overshoot Day.  The first, obviously, reports on human happiness.  The second is a chronological recognition of the day that we humans have used up more resources and added more waste than the Earth can sustain for that year. 

Why think of these together?  What comfort is it if we are becoming more and more happy if we are polluting the very system that sustains us and allows us to seek lives of happiness and well-being?

The World Happiness Report is the fourth to be released – the first one being in 2012.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the happiest nations on Earth are the western-styled nations, with the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden) along with Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Australia making up the top 10.

At the other end of the scale the bottom 10 are made up of eight African nations, plus Afghanistan and Syria.  Undoubtedly the war in these two nations have significant impacts upon the happiness levels of people living in those nations.

However, a table in the World Happiness Report traces the changes in happiness from 2005-07 to 2013-15.  It is noteworthy that all of the top 10 happiest nations had either no increase in their happiness levels in that time, or decreased in happiness.

Yet, as Overshoot Day illustrates, in that time we have consumed more and more and wasted more and more.  In 2005 Overshoot Day was 29 August, and in 2013 it fell on 10 August – almost three weeks earlier. 

Overshoot Day is calculated by comparing our ecological footprint with our biocapacity1 and determining when our ecological footprint overshoots our biocapacity.  If we look at the ecological footprint on a per capita country-by-country basis then a disturbing fact emerges.  Of the ten happiest nations on Earth, all of them are in the top 31 most unsustainable nations on Earth in terms of their ecological impact.  In fact, three of them, Australia (2nd), Canada (4th) and Sweden (9th) are amongst the ten most unsustainable nations on Earth (per capita).

Are we in the western-styled nations exulting in our happiness at the expense of an ever unhappier planet?

Our consuming and wasting lifestyles are not providing us with greater levels of happiness.  Indeed, it could be asked whether the deterioration of the eco-system that we live in has a negative impact upon our happiness levels?  if that is true, then indications are that levels of depression, anxiety and suicide are likely to continue to rise over the coming decades.

This all begs the question: can we be happy and live sustainable lives at the same time?

Another index is helpful when considering how to answer this question.  The Happy Planet Index (HPI) produced by the new economics foundation in the UK combines four elements to calculate the HPI.  The four elements are: well-being, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint.

When this formula is applied on a country-by-country basis we get an altogether different picture of the relationship between happiness and sustainability.  Those top ten happiest nations slip embarrassingly backward.  Highest is Norway at 12th, but then the rest fare badly indeed with Sweden at 61st, Canada 85th and Australia not even making the top 100 – at 105th.  140 nations make up the HPI listing.

At the top of the rankings (for the third time) is Costa Rica which abolished its army in 1949 and diverted defence spending to education, health, and pensions.  The Caribbean nation obtains 99% of it’s electricity from renewable resources and has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021.

It would seem that it is possible for humans to be happy and for the planet to be happy also.  It takes commitment.  Do we have it?

Notes:

1. Ecological footprint is defined as the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce all the resources a population consumes plus the ability to absorb the waste it generates.  Biocapacity refers to the capacity of ecosystems to regenerate what people demand from these systems.  It is the capacity to produce the biological materials used by humans and absorb the waste material generated by humans.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Three Simple Name Games

When groups first form there will be many within the group who do not know each other.  Knowing the names of others in the group is an important first step in group formation.  But many of us are not very good at remembering names, mainly because we do not practise.   However, we do know that if names are repeated, especially if said aloud, then the possibility of remembering those names is increased significantly.  Here are three very simple exercises that groups can use to help participants get to know the names of others in the group.

Hullo Adam, I’m Betty

I’ve named this game after my parents, and because A and B are at the beginning of the alphabet.

Group members sit (or stand) in a circle.  One person starts by saying “Hullo, I’m Adam” (or whatever their name is.  The next person in the circle turns to them and says “Hullo Adam, I’m Betty” (or whatever their name is.  The third person in the circle then looks at the previous two and addresses each of them in turn, saying “Hullo Adam, hullo Betty, I’m Charles” (or whatever their name is)

This continues around the circle, with each person in turn saying “hullo” to each of the preceding people in the circle.  So, for example the sixth person in the circle may say “Hullo Adam, hullo, Betty, hullo Charles, hullo Debbie, hullo Eric, I’m Fran.”  And so on.  This continues until the circle is completed.

If people forget names then the rest of the group should help them out.  This is not a competitive game, with the winner being the person best remembering names.  it is a collective game designed to help everyone in the group begin to know the names of others in the group.

Variation:  When the circle has been completed, the person who began the introductions (Adam in our example) then repeats all the names in reverse order, ending with “… hullo Charles, hullo Betty.”

Bouncing Names Around

This name game needs a simple prop such as a cuddly toy or a small ball – something that can be tossed easily around the group, and easily caught.

The person beginning picks another person in the group and asks them their name (if they do not already know it.)  They then toss the object to that person, meanwhile calling out that person’s name.  That person, in turn, chooses someone else in the group to toss the object to, calling out the name of the person as they do so.  This continues, so that everyone in the group has had the object thrown to them.  Keep repeating this until people think that they have got the name of everyone else into their memory. 

Find Me

This game needs a small piece of paper or a card for each person in the group. 

Each person prints (legibly) their first (and maybe the initial of their family name) name onto a card and places it in a container in the centre of the room.  Once everyone has added their name to the container each member of the group then picks a name from the container at random.  Their task then is to find the person with that name by moving about the group asking others if they have that name or if they know who it belongs to.

Once everyone has identified the person with the name they picked the cards are replaced in the container and everyone draws out another name and attempt to find that person.

There can be more than one person in the group with the same first name.  In order to distinguish between people with the same name the family initial can be used.

Once this has been done four or five times the group returns to a circle.  Each person then takes it in turn to introduce one of the people that they “found” in the previous part of the game.


Have fun with the name games.  Invent your own.  Remember it is not a competition and others should help those who are having difficulty remembering names.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Ideology Trap

When South Africa began to dismantle the apartheid system in the early 1990s many around the world feared that the nation would descend into a bloodbath, with native Africans out for revenge, and white settlers taking up arms to protect what they saw as theirs.  The prevailing ideological solution within much of Africa at the time was to look to African values, a set of undefined values that many African rulers claimed meant solidarity against the west.  But, Nelson Mandela, newly freed after 27 years imprisoned by the apartheid state, said “no.”  Mandela espoused values of human rights, democracy and freedom of speech.  He did not want to be trapped in the ideology that was prevalent at the time throughout the continent.

Mandela also had the historic model of the Nuremberg Trials as an example of achieving justice – retributive justice.  Retributive justice was, and still is the predominant model of state justice systems worldwide.  Retributive justice is an ideology that brings together a collection of beliefs surrounding the criminal mind, community standards, the role of the state, cause and effect, plus not the least, a desire for revenge.  Many western leaders exhorted Mandela to use this model.

Mandela could have clung to the African values ideology or he could have been swayed by the retributive justice ideology.  Instead, he walked away from both of the traps that he could have stepped into.  He proposed something radically different to either of these approaches.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he set up sought a new solution.  Mandela appointed Bishop Desmond Tutu (an outspoken Anglican cleric of the apartheid system) to be the Chairman.  Bishop Tutu describes what happened:1
“When, at last, our leaders were released from prison, it was feared that our transition to democracy would become a bloodbath of revenge and retaliation. Miraculously we chose another future. We chose forgiveness. At the time, we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country from certain destruction. We did not know where this choice would lead us. The process we embarked on through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was, as all real growth proves to be, astoundingly painful and profoundly beautiful.”
Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, and many others decided not to blinker themselves with ideology.  By not doing so, they were able to discover and explore another opportunity.

We too, can very easily, miss opportunities because of our entrenched views and positions.  Even community development workers can be caught in this trap by clinging onto a particular model of community development.

An ideology is simply a connected set of beliefs about how things should be and the methods by which they can be obtained.  It is possible to have political ideologies, religious ideologies, social ideologies.  We can have psychological ideologies, human growth, and community development ideologies.  Ideologies come in a wide variety of guises: socialism, capitalism, liberalism, progressivism, federalism, separatism, communism are just some of the “big” political ideologies.

We can also hold onto what could be called “small” ideologies, e.g. fight fire with fire, or turn the other cheek are two that represent conflicting ideas of how to solve conflict.

When we come across a new idea that does not fit our ideological views then one option is to reject it because it does not conform to how we think the world should be or the method by which our view of the world should be achieved.  That is a mistake.  It is a trap.  We enter the trap simply by being unwilling to consider any other method than those that fit within our ideology.  In many ways our ideology has become our comfort zone.  We need to be able to step beyond that comfort zone in order to recognise the opportunity that lies outside.

The above should not be read as suggesting that all models, worldviews, ideologies should be rejected.  To begin with it is not possible to do so.  We construct our view of reality in our minds, and that allows us to operate in the world.  In order to not miss opportunities, though, we need to hold our views and ideologies lightly.  We cannot allow them to define us.

Here’s a question that you might like to consider: how many opportunities have you missed because of clinging to a particular ideology or perception of the world?

Notes
1. Desmond and Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving, William Collins, London, 2014

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

6 Reasons to Quit Work

In the early 1800s Robert Owen, a social reformer, began using the catch-call “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest.”  Two hundred years later we still work roughly the same amount of time.  Work has been the way in which we customarily spend our day, from 9 to 5.  Work is what we do.  Work is who we are.  Work defines us.

But, does it have to be this way?  The work ethic needs to be questioned.  Note that this is not intended to be read as suggesting that any one individual should quit their job.  But, as a culture, we do need to question our belief in work.  There are at least six reasons for doing so.

1. Work is Boring

A Gallup survey in 2013 covering 142 countries found that just 13% of employees were “engaged” in their work.  A further 63% were “not engaged” and fully one-in-four (24%) were “actively disengaged.”  These disengaged employees (seven out of every eight) lacked motivation and were less likely to invest added effort towards organisational goals or outcomes.  Amongst the reasons for disengagement are: feeling ignored, inability to be creative, a lack of purpose, inflexible work schedules, and a feeling of not making a difference.

2. Work is Damaging the Planet and Others

The amount of time we spend working contributes directly to our carbon footprint.  We work in order to earn, and earn in order to consume.  Consumption is the leading human contributor to carbon emissions.  Because we spend so much time working we do not have the time to stop to reflect upon how we could live more sustainably and cheaply.

When we stop to think about it, it is easy to name the industries that are damaging the earth’s environment: mining and ore processing, lead-acid battery production and recycling, lead smelting, chemical manufacturing, the dye industry, and tannery operations, and many more.

Nor does it take much research to discover how much of work exploits others: children, peasant farmers, sweat-shop workers, the poor and dispossessed.

3. Work is Unnecessary

Work in pre-colonisation indigenous societies took up much less time than it does today.  It has been estimated that in many such societies just eighteen hours per week was needed by each person to provide for food and shelter.  Even in western culture the amount of time spent working prior to the Industrial Revolution was much less than we work today.  In the 13th and 14th centuries in the UK the average peasant or labourer spent between 1400 to 1600 hours working per year.1  The average annual working hours per worker throughout most of the OECD today ranges between 1600 and 1800 hours.

Recently the new economics foundation in the UK estimated that a 21 hour working week is sufficient to enable the economy to be maintained, provide for our needs and allow for greater equity in employment.2  Over a year that would mean working for approximately 1000 hours – a reduction of 40% from our present norm.

4. Work Does Not Define Who I Am

One of the prevailing justifications for work is that it provides us with an identity and with meaning.  Certainly, meaning and self-identity are two of the fundamental needs that we have.  But to state, unequivocally,  that work gives them to us is to make the mistake of confusing needs with strategies.  Work may be a strategy for obtaining identity, but it is only that – a strategy, not the strategy.  If you stop to think about what the need is that you have and then think of strategies to achieve that; I am certain that a number of other strategies will come to mind.

Work does not define us.  Nor should we allow others to define us by our work.  One of the most pernicious questions that we ask of others when we first meet is “what do you do?” meaning what is your work?   This question is grounded in defining a persons worth.  The job defines how worthy or otherwise the person is.  It is demeaning.

5. Work Makes it Difficult to Retire

Retirement is now recognised as a significant contributor to the risk of men (women much less so) becoming clinically depressed and/or suicidal.  Research in the US suggests that retirement increases the risk of depression in men by 40%.  Self-help and support programs are now in place to help men adjust to retirement, but the causes of these depressions are created much earlier - in the work ethic.  For the previous 40 years of their lives men have been goaded, exhorted, encouraged, even coerced into work.  “Get a job,” “climb the corporate ladder,” “get a better job” are just some of the messages that men are bombarded with, many even before they enter the work force.  Much of the education system can be critiqued as being nothing much more than a training ground for future employees.

So, it is no wonder that with retirement comes depression.  Men have not learnt how to live a full, rewarding, satisfying, or contributing life during those 40 years.  All men know is how to work, except for a couple of weeks each year when they can relax.  Relaxation is only one aspect of living.  A couple of weeks is insufficient to learn the pleasures of all the other aspects of life.

Surely it would be much better for us individually, and collectively, to learn about work-life balance and apply it throughout our lives rather than work 40 years, retire, and then live 20 more years in a depressed state.  Its insane.

6 Work is a Con-Job

Max Weber wrote his seminal book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1904 and 1905.  In it Weber traced the beginnings of the protestant work ethic to the Reformation of the 16th century, with possible antecedents to the Middle Ages.  Weber’s thesis was that peoples salvation prior to the Reformation lay in accepting the authority of the (Catholic) church.  However, the Reformation undermined these assurances and salvation came to be understood as lying in one’s works.

By the time Weber wrote his book though, the religious connection with work had largely gone and work became viewed within the capitalist mode that pervaded western societies.

This work ethic remains embedded within the capitalist approach and within our western cultures.  But it is nothing more than a belief.  We still live under the shackle of the protestant work ethic belief.

Summing Up

We live in a society in which we have, in abundance, all the skills, resources, and connections that we need in order to live lives of fulfilment, security, and contentment,  We can do this without having to work 40 hours per week.  We can do this without having to damage the earth.  We can do this without having to exploit others.

Notes:
1. Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Basic Books, New York, 1992

2. Anna Coote, Jane Franklin and Andrew Simms, 21 Hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century, new economics foundation (nef) 2010.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Paradox of Personal Choice

One of the prevailing mantras of our time is that we all have choices, and that if we make the right choices then our lives will evolve accordingly. As with many things in life this is both right and wrong.  It is true and untrue.  The reality lies somewhere in the murky haze between correct and incorrect.

We do have choices, and we are able to make them every moment of our lives.  Our choices are based on what we know at the time, what our past experience has been and whether we are in a frame of mind to keep making the same choice as previously or whether we wish to try something different.  Some choices are conscious, others less so.  All our actions are based on choices, whether we realise it or not.

However, the mantra of personal choice is a paradox.  We have personal choice, but we do not have control over our reality.  The “I have choices, I create my reality” mantra has at least two shortcomings.  1. It needs to acknowledge our inter-connection with others, and 2.  It needs to understand that we cannot control outcomes.  Both of these shortcomings are connected.

Inter-connection

When we think that our choices can create our reality we ignore the fact that every other being (human and otherwise) is also making choices.  When we encounter someone we may choose to encounter that person with cheerfulness and the desire to enter into an harmonious discussion.  But, he or she, may not be in such a receptive mood and their choice may be to ignore you, or worse still, punch you.  I know that this is a pretty dismal example, but the extremity of it is used to show the problem with believing that we create our reality entirely through our own individual choices.  In this case, you may walk away from the encounter still with your cheerfulness intact.  However, you may now also have a bloody nose, and that is possibly not the reality you wished to create.  But you chose.  So did the other person.  And in the moment of contact between the two of you reality was created.

As human beings we are intimately connected, none of us is completely self-enclosed, self-determining, self-sufficient.  The choices that each and every one of us are making throughout our lives can be thought of as small sources of energy.  Collectively, those sources of energy go towards creating the wondrous and emergent reality that is our world.  None of us can take sole credit for any part of it.  Nor can we blame any one person for those aspects that we don’t like or don’t want.  The reality we live and breathe arises from the continuous interplay of all our individual choices.  We could call it the Dance of Life.

Furthermore, we ignore the fact that non-sentient matter and energy is also “making choices.”  What do I mean by that?  Think of something as simple as the weather.  Every day when we arise in the morning the weather has already “decided” what it is going to do.  It may have “decided” to rain, it may have “decided” to be blustery.  Maybe the “decision” is to be a beautiful, clear, warm, sunny day.  Whatever the weather is, that has already affected the decisions we make.  Do we put on warm clothing?  Do we take an umbrella and raincoat with us? 

The Ego and Control

Our ego wants to be in control, or at least think that it is in control.  Freud likened the ego to “a man (sic) on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse,” with the horse being the id.

Of course we need our ego in order to function as human beings, but we need also to realise when the ego gets in the way of our understanding how things work and how much control we really have.  I create  my reality is often another way of saying I control my destiny.  The difficulty comes in the “I.”  In many ways there is no inseparable, self-contained “I.”  The “I” is a self-referring construction of our own mind and ignores the inter-connection between everything as discussed above.

The desire for control can arguably be viewed as the source of many of the problems that we face both individually and collectively.  We learn this misguided lesson early in life.  How many of us grew up within families where there were very definite control mechanisms playing out.  Father controlled the finances.  Mother controlled what was eaten.  Teachers controlled what was taught.  Older siblings controlled what was being played.  The clock on the wall “controlled” what time we went to bed.  These examples should not be read as having inherent rights or wrongs – only that the concept of control is instilled in us from a very early age.

We must transcend our desire for control.

Making Butterfly Choices

Does this mean that we resign ourselves to fatalism?  Does it mean that our personal choices are worthless?  Not at all.  All that this discussion is attempting to suggest is that reality is co-created, and that each and every one of us have an unique, even vital, role in that co-creation.  We are all like butterflies, flapping our wings over the Amazonian jungle.  None of us can ever know whether it is our flapping wings that set off the thunderstorm over Tokyo.1

Chaos Theory tells us that massive outcomes can be set off by the smallest of inputs.  Our individual choice may be one of those small inputs.  Equally, it may not be.  But let us not fall into the ego trap of believing that the outcomes of our individual choices are not influenced by hundreds (possibly thousands) of other people, other sentient beings, and our environment.  We must learn to live with the paradox.

Note:

1. This is a reference to the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory.  The Butterfly Effect says that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set off a thunderstorm in another part of the world.