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, 21 October 2020

The Chimp And The Tigress

 

Photo left: We Don't Deserve This Planet.
Photo right: © Sergey Gorshkov, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020.

 

Two images caught my attention last week.  The images contrast, yet they are connected.  The first was posted on the Facebook site We Don’t Deserve This Planet on 15 October 2020.  The second is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 announced on 14 October 2020.

The photograph of the chimp sitting on the stump of a destroyed tree evokes feelings of sadness and compassion.  The fold of its arms and the look on the chimp’s face shows deep loss, anguish, and despair.  The chimp has not only had a home destroyed but has also lost a loved companion.

As if to prove that animals are capable of love, the second image clearly reveals the depth of the possible love between a Siberian tigress and a Manchurian fir.  The tigress visibly appreciates and respects the tree and the forest.

Both photographs reveal the connection between love and grief.  Grief has been likened to loving that which has disappeared.  Love, as grief’s corollary, as a way of grieving that which has not yet slipped from view.1  Grief and love are twins, one is not possible without the other.

The chimp and the tigress show the reality of this twinship.

What if we look beyond these two photographs?  Is it possible to recognise what is not in the frame, what is missing?  In neither photograph is the photographer seen, revealed only by name.  The lack of a seen photographer could suggest a false objectivity, a false distancing of photographer and photographed.  Yet nature, of which we are a part, is not an assembly of disconnected objects.  All is intimately connected.

Our emotional responses to these photographs confirm that inter-connection.

Something else is missing, at least from the first photograph.  Missing is the human, or humans, who chopped down and destroyed the tree upon which the chimp laments.

Our human destructiveness is rooted in an inability to recognise the connectedness of everything.  Our disconnect and destructive desire is eloquently revealed in the face of the chimp.

Yes indeed, both these photographs show the love that these two animals have for their habitat and for the trees of the forest.

Both photographs also allow us to recognise what is not revealed, what is not captured via the camera lens.

Sometimes we need to look beyond appearances.

Note:

1. Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2015.




Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Seeking Our Uncomfort Zone

Photo: Pars Sahin at Unsplash.com
Often major personal changes in our lives come about as a result of a traumatic event, or at least via some difficulty.  Carl Jung, the ground-breaking psychologist, noted that “there is no birth of consciousness without pain.”  Yet, many people journey through life with little, or no, truly painful or difficult interruption.  Does this mean that there is no chance of personal growth or consciousness-raising for these people?

Not at all.  Not if they are prepared to seek their Uncomfort Zone.

This is not easy, as our western culture and lifestyle stress the seeking and maintaining of comfort.  From the time of our birth to the time of our death our lives are geared towards comfort and the elimination of anything uncomfortable.  Once inside our comfort zone we seem extremely reluctant to step outside it, even in small ways.  (A quick aside:  our personal “comfort” zone may actually be depressing, miserable, or unhealthy, yet somehow our undeveloped psyches tell us that this is where we are “comfortable.”)

By way of example of what I am writing here: Recently I was part of a conversation amongst a group of men and the topic of camping arose.  I queried how much “camping” was involved if one towed a large caravan and took with them all the comforts of home, including TV, fridge, stove, and a warm, comfortable bed.  I was met with remonstrations that “I like to feel comfortable,” or similar.

Sadly, such unwillingness to seek our Uncomfort Zone is all too prevalent within western culture.

Our Uncomfort Zone may not necessarily have to take us into extreme territory.  The following simple physical acts may be enough to begin our exploration of Uncomfort and perhaps embolden us to go further:

·       Step outside on a cold winters day and feel the chill against your cheeks, rather than remain inside and switch on the (fossil fuelled) heating system.

·       Take off your comfortable (and comforting) footwear and walk around the block in bare feet.  Feel the different sensations of differing terrain.

·       Walk or bike the five kilometres to the local shops, rather than getting into a comfortable car and driving.  Perhaps you will meet a neighbour, or hear birds singing in the trees.

·       Camp overnight with just a tent, sleeping bag, and a simple cooker to heat your food.  Maybe the stars will startle you, or perhaps you will hear an owl hoot.

When simple actions like this are undertaken it can be surprising what questions come to you.  Questions about your own lifestyle, or perhaps broader questions relating to your place in the cosmos, or maybe questions related to the inter-connections of everything.  These questions will be different for everyone.

These simple physical actions are just the beginning of our journey into our Uncomfort Zone.  There is much much more to explore, farther to go, deeper into our Zone of Uncomfort.  But, there is no need to rush, the zone will always be there.

And that is just the physical journey into a Zone of Uncomfort.  How would we go about journeying into an emotional or spiritual Uncomfort Zone?   

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Gather Around The Hearth

What images arise when the word hearth is said? 

Perhaps a fire blazing in a stone or wooden cottage on a heath in northern Europe during a cold winter, a cauldron of soup on the boil.  Or perhaps a blazing fire in a cave with people wrapped up in animal furs.  Maybe an image from our childhood days around a fire in the living room listening to mother or father reading a bedtime story.

The hearth is central to our human journey.  Until the last half century or so we have probably sat around a hearth, sharing a meal, telling stories, and warming our bodies for millennia.  It may be only the last two thousandths of one percent of our human journey that we have not had a hearth to enjoy.

Is it any wonder then that the word hearth is the container for words such as: Heart, Earth, Hear, Ear, Art?  Perhaps its simple coincidence.  Perhaps its not.

Etymologically the word heart is derived from the Old English word heorte which, alongside the name for our internal organ, also included the sense of memory.  Further back, the word derives from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word kerd which also gives us words such as: cordial, courage, credence, creed, and concord.

Intriguingly, we get the word hearth from the PIE word kerta (meaning heat, fire,)  very similar to kerd.  The two words hearth and heart have been close cousins for millennia.

Dropping the H from the word hearth we get the word Earth.  Figuratively we may see that sitting around the hearth brings us closer to the earth, and being mindful of our earthly connection is symbolically signified in our sitting around the hearth.

Our ability to listen is held within the hearth, containing as it does the words hear and ear.  This reminds us of listening to stories; fireside stories, campfire stories, stories of our ancestors.  It reminds us to listen, listen to Mother Earth, listen to our shared stories of who we are and why we are here.  Hear and ear remind us to listen to the stories of elders, those who remember the stories of their grandparents, and their grandparents before them, stretching through many many generations.

And, right in the middle of hearth is art.  Again, perhaps coincidental, perhaps not.  Whether coincidence or intentional we are reminded of our creativity.  Stories are creative means of telling our history, our mythology, our knowledge and wisdom.  We might also picture our ancestors sitting around a hearth, fire blazing, in the middle of a cave watching a colleague painting some of the first cave art.

When we trace the word art back linguistically we find that it is derived from a word that meant to fit together and also gives us words such as: arm, army, harmony, order, ordinary, and ornate.  Once again, we see (or hear) a recognition that we are part of everything, not separate.  Our art speaks to us of this connection.

Hearth suggests fire.  For time immemorial we have used fire to warm ourselves, to cook over, and to tell stories around.  The phrase “keep the home fires burning” is a reference to the importance of place.  We keep fires burning so that we can offer a welcoming place of warmth, comfort, and companionship.

In Aotearoa (New Zealand – my birthplace) Māori have the phrase Ahi Kā, literally meaning burning fire, it means to keep fires alight, signifying continuous occupation and a link to the ancestors.

So, the word hearth reminds and suggests to us just how connected we are, and how we are part of the earth, not separate from it.  When we open our heart and our ears and truly hear the voices of elders, of our ancestors, of Mother Earth, then we are able to build a fire that warms us, nourishes us, keeps us connected, and provides a space for us to tell stories.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

No Measure Of Health

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”1 This quote, attributed to

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)
Jiddu Krishnamurti, pithily states the Catch-22 state we find ourselves in.

Much of the helping/caring professions of western society are rife with people and practices that assist others to adjust to society, to fit into the norms and expectations of our culture.  To be well-adjusted is to be; obedient, status-driven, goal-oriented, productive, and primarily, a consuming member of society.

But, what if, as Krishnamurti suggests, society itself is sick?  What if our culture is unhealthy?  What if our ‘normal’ way of life is creating the very conditions in which individuals experience anxiety, depression, alienation, paranoia, and other ‘mental health’ issues?

What if ‘normal’ gives rise to alcoholism, gambling (and other addictions), domestic violence, homelessness, narcissism, and obesity – to name just a few means of coping in a sick society?

What if ‘normal’ means destroying our own nest?  Soil depletion, deforestation, water pollution, toxic waste, and species extinction are all examples of fouling our own nest.

The more we look around us – at individual, social, and global scales – the less we are able to claim that we live in a healthy society.

Bill Plotkin has a rather caustic term for our society – Patho-Adolescent he calls it.  However, unlike many within the caring/helping professions, Plotkin maps out a process for attaining individual and social health.2

The process/journey is not an easy one.  Raising healthy children into healthy adulthood and thence to elderhood is far from straight-forward in an unhealthy society.

Re-establishing a healthy society is unlikely to be brought about by unhealthy individuals.

Catch-22!

The journey must entail both personal and cultural work.  It is of little value joining a march or rally, or signing petitions, if there is no commitment to undergoing personal work on the self.

Similarly, it is of little value spending one’s hours on a meditation cushion, or attending personal growth retreats if no work is being done to help transform the cultural-social milieu.

Both forms of work are necessary, and neither is pre-eminent.  There is no need to wait until my personal development work is complete (it never is) before embarking on cultural transformation.  Nor can one afford to wait until the social setting has been transformed (it never is) before healing oneself.

Returning to the Krishnamurti quote that began this blogpiece.  It is also of little value helping others adapt or adjust to society if no attempt is made to at least challenge the society in which the person acquired their addiction, anxiety, depression …

Yes, it is not an easy journey.  However, it is a doable journey; it is also a rewarding one.

Notes:

1. Although attributed to Krishnamurti, I have been unable to locate the source, except in a reference in a book by Mark Vonnegut (son of the author Kurt Vonnegut) – The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity, 1975.

2. See especially: Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Mother Nature On The Run

Fifty years ago this week Neil Young released his classic album After The Goldrush.  The lyrics of the
title track include these prescient lines:

“Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the Nineteen-seventies.”

Once the millennium ticked over and we moved into the next century, Young updated that lyric and it became:

Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the Twenty-first century.”

Mother Nature has been on the run from humans for many years.  During the seventies she had to increase the pace.  Now, fifty years later, Mother Nature is sprinting, and she is losing the race.

Over the past fifty years the world’s wildlife population has declined by almost 70%.  Species are becoming extinct at a rate between 100 and 1000 times the natural background rate – because of human activity.

The first human made plastic was demonstrated at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 (just 160 years ago).  In 1970 less than 50 million tonnes of plastic was produced world-wide.  Fifty years later we produce over 400 million tonnes, much of it ending up in the world’s oceans.  It is estimated that ninety percent of all plastic produced ends up as waste.

Approximately one-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in the past fifty years.

More than one-third of the world’s arable land has been lost since 1970.  Human activity has increased erosion by 10 – 50 times the usual rate through our agricultural activities, deforestation, urbanisation, transport infrastructure, and climate change.

Mother Nature is losing the race.  She is exhausted.

Humans have chased her down, cut down her trees, slaughtered her fauna, decimated her flora, and poisoned her with waste.

We have also captured her, tamed her, and put her in a cage.  Nowadays it is possible to download an app of nature sounds to your phone,1 or watch and listen to a video of a gentling flowing stream, or rustling leaves on your laptop.

Isn’t it time we stopped chasing Mother Nature?  Isn’t it time we stopped the race?  Isn’t it time we let Mother Nature out of the cage, and let her return to the wild?  Isn’t it time we helped Mother Nature heal and recover?

Isn’t it time we realised that we are racing the race against ourselves?

Note

1. A google search for “nature sound app” returned 167 million hits. Roughly the number of trees cut down every week or two.(accessed 22 September 2020) 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The Courage To Change

Sometime in the early 1930s Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer, the first verse of which has come to be

Reinhold Niebuhr
known as the Serenity Prayer.  Niebuhr wrote:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Although Niebuhr’s prayer is couched in theological terms, the sentiment could easily help us clarify our social justice actions.

When I - a white, older-aged, male, residing in one of the world richest nations – consider what things I can change, these come to mind.

Racism is predominantly a system and a structure of providing white people benefits within society and largely excluding those of dark skin.  It has been built on the back of (often) brutal colonisation and a Eurocentric sense of superiority.  My ethnic background and heritage place me squarely in the position of being able to do something about that – to change it.

My age (I was born in the 1950s) means that I have grown up in an age of plenty, an age of exploitation of the earth, an age of increasing individualisation and entitlement.  When I look around at my cohort today I see little has changed.  My peers are still approaching the earth as if it is a big playground.  Meanwhile, the future of younger generations is being stolen from them, and the memory of past generations is being forgotten or placed in museums.  My age enables me to work to change this.

Sexism and misogyny are the outcome of a system that is patriarchal in nature.  Patriarchy is dominated by male thought, by male values, by male attitudes.  Those values and attitudes have: seen domestic abuse and violence at high levels, maintained an economic imbalance between the sexes, plundered the earth, given rise to authoritarianism, and even exploited some men (particularly gay men, black men, boys.)  As a man I have a responsibility to change this.

Inequality of wealth and income is one of the drivers of so many social ills.  Poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, homelessness, displaced peoples and migrants, various addictions, and poor health, can all be attributed to inequality.  In 2019 there were 2,153 billionaires (less than the number needed to fill the average cruise ship), yet these billionaires had more wealth than 4.6 billion people (60% of the world's population.)  The 22 richest men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa.1  Even I (who have an income that is just a little above the Australian official poverty level) am wealthier than almost 90% of the world’s people.  As a resident of a rich nation I can do something to help change this.

There are many things in the world that I have little, or no, ability to change, even though I may find them disturbing, unjustified, or oppressive.  However, those I have just outlined I do have the ability to change, because I live within each of those enclaves and am supported by and benefit from them.  And that is where Niebuhr calls us to courage.

It is far more courageous to look at the systems I am part of and seek to change from within, than it is to point the finger elsewhere and say “you have to change.”

What if look but don’t see?

I suggest there is one more line to add to Niebuhr’s prayer.

The humility to listen to those in pain and suffering.

Note:

1. Statistics from:  Oxfam International, Time To Care: Unpaid and underpaid care work in the global inequality crisis, January 2020.


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Will The Last Human Plant A Tree?

There is an Indian saying: “Blessed is the one who plants trees under whose shade they will never sit.”

If we stop long enough to listen to the earth we will hear the sounds of hundreds upon hundreds of trees being felled every minute.  We will hear the sounds of birds bemoaning their lack of habitat.  We will hear Mother Earth herself cry out in pain as she is cut into with rock-crushing machinery.

And if we take the time to read the research then we will realise that we are in what has been termed the “Sixth Extinction.”  The fifth extinction took place approximately 65 million years ago, famously wiping out the dinosaurs and killed around half of all life on the planet.  The extinction period is considered to have lasted between 1 and 2 ½ million years.  Famously, it is also thought to have been caused by an external event – the impact of a meteor up to 80km in diameter and delivering an energy equivalent to 21 – 960 billion Hiroshima sized bombs.

The Sixth Extinction could take much less than this amount of time, and without such a massive fireball of energy.  It just requires us humans continuing to do what we are doing.

Over the course of the past century or two our impact upon the earth has been to increase the background extinction rate by 100 – 1,000 times the usual rate.  Yet, if we look at the list of those species that have already gone extinct, and if we consider the extinction list of species that will become extinct, we often miss noticing one particular species on that list.  Homo sapiens.  Us, yes, we humans are on that list of species likely to become extinct.

It is a distinct possibility.  Many of earths climatic and biodiversity tipping points have been reached, and some possibly already triggered.  Once these tipping points are triggered then a cascade of tipping points will be triggered.  That means one thing.

No matter what we do there will be nothing we can do to control the runaway.

We have no solutions.

We have no hope.

Pessimistic?  Hopeless?  Despairing?  Apocalyptic?  Doomsday?  Maybe, maybe not.

What do we do?  First, continuing our destructive, affluent, mindless, exploitative lifestyles cannot continue.  We must stop.

Then, when we stop, we will perhaps discover that there is a grief in our knowledge.  This is to be expected, for “grief is a way of loving what has slipped from view.  Love is a way of grieving that which has not yet done so.”1   Stephen Jenkinson eloquently reminds us that grief and love are intimately entwined.   

Stephen Jenkinson is a Canadian and one of his compatriots, Leonard Cohen, made a prescient observation in his song Boogie Street, when he sang:

“It was in love that we are made,

In love we disappear.”2

We could turn our disappearing - our extinction – into a time to rediscover and re-connect with the noble aspects of our humanity: love, compassion, kindness, empathy. 

Am I suggesting giving up hope?  Yes, for hope is a hopeless cause (if you’ll excuse the quip.) 

I am however, suggesting we act as if our grief and our love (for ourselves, for others, for the planet) are real and palpable. 

So, when the last human is about to die, will they plant a tree?

Notes:

1.  1. Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2015.

2.  2. Leonard Cohen, Boogie Street, on the album Ten New Songs, Columbia, 2001.