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, 14 September 2021

Earth - Our Humble Home

When our ancestors sat around an open fire at night, after the communal meal was over, I imagine they told stories. I further imagine that for many of those stories they had to invent new words. I assume that these new words were not simply a jumble of random, different, sounds. They would have had relationships to other words. There would have been embedded meanings within the new words, so that those listening could imagine the roots of the words, and hence gain an idea of the new word and the concepts it tried to express.

As the millennia passed, and language evolved, we have forgotten those fireside stories. We have forgotten the relationships between words. Hence, we have also forgotten the nuances and the depth of meaning of many words.

In that forgetting, and loss, we may have also lost our relationship to the earth, to nature, and to one another.

Yet, the shadows of those relationships still exist in our (English) language. If we trace back the derivation of words, we can find those early connections and relationships.

When we find those relationships, we can superficially say to ourselves: “oh, that’s interesting.” Or, we could be drawn into a deeper understanding of our human relationship with the earth. An understanding that our ancestors had.

One of those significant Proto-Indo-European (PIE) words is dhghem. It means earth.

From this root word we get our modern human, as well as words such as humus, humble, humility, and humane.

Around that ancient fireside I can imagine people constructing language and, almost absently, linking the words (and concepts) of human and humus. When they did so, I imagine there was little, if any dispute. In fact, I imagine, those listening would have thought: yes of course, we (humans) are of the humus (earth.)

Following on, I imagine, there may have been further dialogue in which the connections between humans and the earth were broadened and expanded. Someone around that fireside may have conjured up an entire story based on how the first human was created from the earth. Others may have added embellishments or even other words. Perhaps someone suggested the word humble to describe how humans were grateful for their home in the earth.

Indeed, the Hebrews did just that. The first human, within the Hebrew tradition, was called Adam, deriving from the Hebrew word for groundadamah.

Later on, many many firesides later, the Swede, Carl Linnaeus, coined the binomial term homo sapiens to describe our species. Linnaeus retained the connection to the earth through the term homo which has connections with the word homunculus, or little person, often one who lived in the ground – an earthling.

If we were to sit around a fireside today, and if we were to bring our attention to what it means to be human, and if we were open to listening to the connections that our ancestors made, then we might find we gain a completely new awareness of our home. We might then begin to tell a different story of what it means to live in this home.

We are, quite literally, people of the earth. We are all earthlings.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Transport Reflections

This morning I was cycling with my neighbour on a route we take often, but had not ridden for a couple of weeks. At that time of day (5.30 – 7.00 am) we occasionally meet other people out walking, either alone or with one other person. Sometimes these early morning walkers have a dog with them. We have begun to recognise familiar faces.

This morning as we cycled up a hill, we encountered a woman and her dog walking down the hill. As we passed, we called out a greeting. Her response was: ‘Lovely to see you back again.’

I remarked to my neighbour that the greeting was lovely to hear. The woman with her dog had obviously seen us before and remembered us. She had also, clearly, noticed that we had been absent for a few weeks.

It got me thinking and reflecting upon the nature of transport.

Would the same interaction have occurred if the woman was driving her car, and we were also in a car, travelling in the opposite direction?

No, it would not have.

Culturally, we have become addicted, and dependent upon, travelling faster, easier, and more comfortably. We tell ourselves that this is necessary. We have to get to work. We have to get the kids to school. We have to do the weekly grocery shopping. We have to go to the movies, or a restaurant, or to some other entertainment venue.

And, doing all that, what do we do?

We enclose ourselves in a metal and plastic vehicle weighing anywhere from one tonne to more than two tonnes. It is totally enclosed. The world is shut out, and we are shut in.

We travel at speed. We travel with ease; all we need do is steer and press our foot on the accelerator. We travel in comfort; the seats are cushioned, the music (or audiobook) comes to us from well positioned speakers.

We interact with no-one - unless there are others in the vehicle. We do not hear the birds singing, we do not hear the leaves in the trees rustling. We often don’t even see the landscape through which we are passing.

Weak Ties

I notice it time and time again though, that when walking or cycling, the opportunity for small interactions - a friendly wave, a smile, a greeting - arise continuously. Researchers have labelled these interactions and relationships as weak ties.

Such small and brief relationships are not what we commonly think of when we think of community or friendship, or even acquaintanceships. They do not loom large in our thinking when it comes to how we conceive of our sense of belonging.

Yet, these weak ties can be just as important as the strong ties in our lives, and in our sense of community and belonging. Some pioneering research in 20131 suggested that “…seemingly trivial social experiences can shape belonging and well-being in the real world.”

Last week’s blog suggested we let go.

This week’s blog suggests we slow down, stop looking for the easy solution, and get out of our comfortable vehicles.

This week’s blog suggests we start walking or cycling. We might find the small, weak, interactions that we have along the way bring us a greater sense of belonging and well-being.

As a bonus, we would be doing the environment a great benefit.

Note:

1. Gillian M Sandstrom and Elizabeth W Dunn, Is Efficiency Overrated? Minimal Social Interactions Lead to Belonging and Positive Affect, in Social Psychology and Personality Science, September 2013.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Let Go

Perhaps it is time to let go.

In our western cultural tradition, we have been hanging on for a very long time. Should we just let go?

Let go our hopes. Let go our dreams. Let go our desires.

Perhaps it is time to let go of all our striving?  Let go of our striving to climb ever higher. Let go of our striving for enlightenment and perfection.

Is it time to let go of our cultural imperatives towards progress and improvement?

And the biggy. Should we let go our desire for control?

Has our striving for the next best thing brought us greater joy, happiness and/or love?

Instead of seeking more and more, perhaps we could allow ourselves to become immersed in less and less?

Maybe we could gain some insight as to how to let go from the sages of the East.

One of Buddha’s great insights and contribution to the world was his recognition that all suffering (also translated as discontent, dissatisfaction, or dis-ease) is because of either attachment or aversion.

When we become attached to something (whether it be a physical object, an ideology, or a dream) we inevitably will feel discontent. The trick, according to Buddhism, is to hold our desires and wants lightly.  To not grasp and hold them so tightly that we become stressed and anxious.

Grasping tightly is almost synonymous with wishing to control. We attempt to control our environment, our surroundings, and even ourselves, by creating boundaries, and grasping at false certainties. Nothing in this world is certain. Yet, our wish for certainty keeps us bottled up, and held together in a tight embrace. Ironically, the more we try to tighten that grip, the more we shut our experiences of love, beauty, freedom, happiness, and joy.

Another useful contribution from the East helping us to let go is the Confucian and Taoist concept of wu wei. Wu wei could be described as the “action of inaction.” To our western ears such an idea may sound nonsensical. It must be remembered, however, that we in the west have been imbued with the idea of linear causality. A causes B which in turn, causes C. Eastern (and a lot of indigenous) thinking recognises more circular and co-dependent causal effects.

Wu wei recognises this and suggests that our natural state is to align ourselves within the harmony of nature. To not fight against nature or the universe, but rather, to flow with it.

In our current state of the world, could any of these concepts be of use? Either personally or collectively?

I leave the reader to ponder this.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Our Second Biggest Threat

Will the human race survive the Anthropocene Extinction – the sixth mass extinction?  It’s debatable.  And, what threatens our chances of survival?  This blog names our second biggest threat.

Covid?  The current (this blog written in August 2021) pandemic sweeping the world may or may not be the precursor to other more virulent pandemics to come.

No, covid is not our second biggest threat.

Climate chaos then?  We know the world is getting warmer.  We know that our human produced carbon emissions are a large part of that warming.  We know this warming is causing climate chaos.  We know this will almost certainly worsen.

No, not even climate chaos is our second biggest threat.

Perhaps ecological overshoot?  We know we have been extracting more and more from the earth, and producing more and more waste and pollution.  We know that since the early 1970s the earth has not been able to keep up with our ecological demand.  Our ecological footprint massively exceeds the earths biocapacity.

No, ecological overshoot is not our second biggest threat.

Our second biggest threat is our increasing polarization, and, along with it, our seemingly diminishing ability to communicate with one another.

This current covid pandemic is a glaring example of our inability to engage with one another in mutually respectful, and creative ways.  Take a look at social media posts about covid.  Two primary ‘camps’ seem to have formed.1  In one camp are those who say we must all wear masks, get a vaccine, accede to lock-downs.  The other camp comprises those who say all the restrictions threaten individual rights, and that the vaccines are dangerous.

Each camp has its adherents who are prepared to hurl abuse at those in the other camp.  Each camp has those who label the other camp followers as ‘idiots,’ ‘uneducated ignoramuses,’ or worse epithets.  Each camp claims that the other does not know what they are talking about.  Each camp accuses the other of not doing their research.

In short, each camp has proponents who are unwilling to engage with the other.

That is the threat.

If we are unable to engage with each other, without descending into name-calling and judgemental accusations, then there is very little chance that we can find any passage through the threats of climate change and ecological overshoot.  And, without that ability to engage with one another, we will not survive the Anthropocene Extinction.

The inability to engage with one another, though, is itself a symptom of the second biggest threat.

Polarization.

Again, covid is a very good marker of this trend to further and further polarization.  Each of the camps referred to above seem to be becoming further and further entrenched in their own ‘truth story.’  Each seem to be retreating into an echo chamber, wherein those who disagree are kept outside (defriended on facebook for example) and more and more evidence for their viewpoint can be found within the echo chamber.

Covid is only the latest example of this increasing polarization.  In a disturbing piece of research published in 2015, researchers in the U.S. tracked the level of cooperation, or lack thereof, between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1949 and 2012.  The results (see diagram) are revealing.2  Polarization has been increasing during those sixty plus years. Democrats are in blue, Republicans in red.


Of course, it could be argued that the U.S. House of Representatives does not represent the state of the world.  That is true, but only to an extent.  Our political systems often reflect the situation within the electorate, and/or tend to guide that level of political/social discourse within the electorate.  Furthermore, we know that the U.S. has a huge influence upon the culture of the western world.

Furthermore, we have established infrastructure that exacerbates, even thrives on, polarization.  Our parliamentary and legal systems, in particular, are structured on adversarial lines.  These are recipes for polarization.

Sadly, there is no way we can negotiate our way through covid, climate chaos, or ecological overshoot, if we remain trapped within echo chambers, especially echo chambers that we are adding more and more soundproofing to.

That is why polarization is our second biggest threat.

Our Biggest Threat?

You may be wondering what I consider our biggest threat to be?

Polarization is an inevitable outcome of a disconnect from one another.  When we view humanity in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ then we have begun the slippery slide towards polarization.

Our disconnect from one another is itself constructed on an even more fundamental disconnection.

Our disconnection from nature.

This is our biggest threat.  Yet, it is a threat we hardly even see, let alone acknowledge.  Starting with our disconnect from nature we easily slide into a disconnection from one another, and further still – a disconnection from our own selves (I prefer the term ‘soul’). 

When that happens, we find ourselves on a slide that ends with toxic individuality – the ultimate disconnect, and the ultimate polarization.

Is there a way to recover?  Is there a way to reconnect?  Is there a way to step out of our echo-chambers?  Is there a way to rediscover our souls?

Is there a way to survive?

Notes:

1. Presently it does appear that each of these ‘camps’ constitute only a small segment of the population.  Most people seem to be placing themselves outside of either camp.  How long that will last is unknowable.

2. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0123507 Accessed 25 August 2021

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Existential Grief and Mourning (Part 4)

Painting: Teodor Axentowicz "Hutsul Funeral"
In the past three blogpieces (here, here, and here) I have delved into the five stages of
Grief, with especial reference to Existential Collapse. In this concluding piece I consider the emotional response of Mourning.

Existential Collapse is incomprehensible. Existential Collapse is unheard of. We have never been here before. We have no blueprints. We have no roadmap with which to navigate our way.

However, if we get over denial, and then manage our way through three stages of grief (anger, bargaining, depression) then we may arrive at Acceptance.

In that state of Acceptance we can truly Mourn.

(Before moving on, let me make an important distinction. Mourning is not depression. Mourning is not melancholia. Mourning is not sadness, nor is it sorrow.)

Mourning is like the soft woollen cloak that wraps around us and holds in the warmth of a deep love.

Tracing the etymology of mourning is illuminating. It has Old Germanic and Old Nordic roots; roots that also give us words like memory, commemorate, and remember. So, when we mourn, we remember something.

When we think of mourners we think of those (as in the painting above) following a coffin. These followers (mourners) have lost someone, and in their following, are remembering that loved one.

Thus, we could define mourning as “remembering our love for someone, or something, that has been lost, or is about to be lost.”

It is this love, and the memory of love, that sets mourning apart from melancholia and depression. You could say that mourning is a remembering of joy, beauty, love, and connection.

Mourning, in the context of Existential Collapse, is remembering the beauty of nature. It is remembering our connection with the enormity and totality of life. It is remembering our place. It is remembering that we are all derived from, and owe our very existence to, Mother Earth.

Mourning and Acceptance are two aspects of the same understanding. Both recognise that whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. When we treat the Earth with disdain, we lose our connection and humanity.

When we treat the Earth as part of us, we can remember beauty, joy, and love.

We are losing that Earth. Or, at least, we are losing our part of that Earth. And for that, we can mourn, we can remember.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Existential Grief and Mourning (Part 3)

The previous two blogposts (here and here) have briefly assessed three of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining) in terms of Existential Collapse. This blogpost looks at the other two stages – depression and acceptance.

Depression

We live in a world where we want to fix things. If its broke – fix it! If it ain’t broke – still, fix it! You could say we are fixated on fixing things. The same is true of depression. Depression must be fixed.

But, in a time of grief, depression is a natural response to loss. Indeed, when facing Existential Collapse – the ultimate loss – depression may be a vital part of the grieving process; a “must-see” stop off point on the grieving journey.

Yet, there is much fear around depression, sadness, and despair. This fear leads to a reluctance to talk about Existential Collapse. “Don’t talk about it. Don’t got there – you’ll only get depressed.”

Sounds like denial, doesn’t it? Depression – a necessary stage in the grief process – is to be denied.

The reluctance to recognise the possibility of depression takes on an even greater significance in a time of Existential Collapse. The ramifications of collapse will seriously impact younger generations and those yet to be born. Older generations (if they understand at all) may be reluctant to engage with younger people because they wish to protect their children and grandchildren from such thinking.

Yet, not talking about collapse hides a truth. An enormous truth! An unwillingness to enter into conversations around collapse is tantamount to lying. Such conversations may be difficult, they may be painful, they may even be depressive. But, have them we must – for this collapse has already begun, and will become worse – much worse.

Furthermore, younger generations cannot be protected and must not be lied to. Indeed, younger generations most likely know more about Existential Collapse than do older generations.

Notwithstanding the possibility of depression, we must find the courage to begin conversations about Existential Collapse – even if we do not know how or where to begin.

Let us not allow our fear of depression to hinder us from facing our fear of Existential Collapse.

Acceptance

Accepting Existential Collapse may seem to be a strange (even counter-intuitive) notion. How does one accept the possible extinction of the human race? Surely, that is an untenable idea. However, let me be clear: Acceptance is not synonymous with “being okay with.” Nor is acceptance a resigned, non-involved, withdrawal.

Tara Brach coined the term Radical Acceptance which is possibly a better term than the single word – Acceptance. She has said that Radical Acceptance is “…an inner process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. It means feeling sorrow and pain without resisting… (It is) clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart.”1

Perhaps an analogy may help to distinguish between this form of acceptance, and a resigned withdrawal.

Imagine you are a member of a sports team (e.g., rugby, netball, Aussie rules, gridiron, basketball, league …) and the full-time whistle is about to blow within the next couple of minutes. Your team is trailing by thirty points or more – your team is going to lose. Do you, and the rest of your team-mates, give up, stop playing, walk dejectedly off the field? No! You keep playing, right up until the whistle, even though you know you are going to lose. Furthermore, you keep playing as part of the team. You don’t take on the burden of loss all to yourself. Nor do you hog the ball – you pass, you support your team-mates.

That is Acceptance.

Acceptance in a time of Existential Collapse also understands that the past is no longer relevant. Past behaviours and ideas cannot be returned to. They are unsustainable.

This understanding leads many in the Acceptance stage to conclude that the very basis of western-styled techno-industrial civilisation is at the core of the collapse. Business-As-Usual is not an option.

Although Acceptance understands the big picture, it also realises that there are no solutions. Existential Collapse is not a problem to be solved or fixed. It is a predicament which has an outcome, but does not have solutions. See the excellent blogsite (Problems, Predicaments, and Technology).

This would seem to suggest that the emotional response would be depression. It is not. True Acceptance, in fact, opens one up to a new appreciation of beauty, love, joy, and contentment.2

Next week this blog will look into what it means to Mourn in a time of grieving and Existential Collapse.

Notes:

1. www.tarabrach.com (accessed 10 August 2021)

2. Transiting to a stage of Acceptance in a time of Existential Collapse will be the topic of a future blogpiece.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Existential Grief and Mourning (Part 2)

Last week’s blog discussed one of the stages of grief in relation to Existential Collapse. It was suggested that denial is the predominant stage for most of the citizens of, especially, western-styled nations. This week addresses two more stages – anger and bargaining – perhaps the two most common stages that we find activists (and others) in the climate change movement.

Anger

Anger is an on-the-top emotion. When we experience it, we know it – and usually, so do those around us. Anger is driven by, and protective of, the ego. Anger declares: I am threatened, or I have been harmed. Our ego wants to protect us from real and/or perceived threats. So, our ego looks for, and usually finds, an external source of the threat or pain.

Anger is also a cover-up emotion. It covers up deeper emotions. Beneath anger we often find other emotional states: betrayal, physical harm, abuse, and abandonment, are some possibilities. These hidden emotions vary from person to person, and from culture to culture. Anger, and our ego, is determined to shield us from these deeper emotions. With respect to Existential Collapse, beneath the anger may be the pain of a deep sense of impending loss. Loss is always difficult, and painful. Existential Collapse is the ultimate loss, and extremely painful. No wonder we want to shield ourselves from that.

Once a source of threat or pain is identified, the ego now has something, or someone, to blame. Presently, the various movements around the world find it easy to identify culprits: business leaders, trans-national companies, world leaders, the media, politicians. Once identified, it is easy to uncover further evidence for this analysis. Confirmation bias kicks in and we can find many articles with titles such as “Biggest 10 carbon emitters” almost every day.

Anger is a useful early response to Existential Collapse – it protects us. However, remaining within this stage is unhelpful, because we remain externally focussed. We can find more and more evidence that we are right, that someone or something else is to blame, and hence deserving of our anger.

When that happens, anger has become a blindfold, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture.

Bargaining

The other stage that many activists (and others) are caught in is that of bargaining. Bargaining allows us to hold onto hope, even though we are experiencing pain. Bargaining asks: If I (we) do this then can things get back to normal?

Bargaining in a time of Existential Collapse says: If we do this, and that, then collapse will not happen. Bargaining is a hopeful stage, it paints a rosy picture of the future, one in which everything will be okay.

Because this stage is hopeful of the future, it often is a solutions-generating stage. However, solutions posited in this stage tend to be of a reactive and grasping nature. Reacting to a simplistic analysis and grasping at quick (often technological) fixes. Such solutions arise from a mechanistic way of thinking.

The mechanistic, Cartesian, ways of thinking have been with us in the western world for some 400 years or so. Einstein, however, challenged this by telling us that:

“We cannot solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Einstein was not simply suggesting thinking differently about problems, he was suggesting a completely different way of thinking.1

Because we continue to think and generate solutions within a mechanistic mindset, the solutions generated in this bargaining stage, more often than not, also tend to exacerbate the very problem we are wanting to solve.

Bargaining keeps us locked into an historical trap. A trap that keeps us thinking we can be certain of being able to fix things. A trap within which we continue to believe we can be in control of the anthropocentric project of progress. That is techno-addiction.

The bargaining stage is useful to us, it means we can, at least, look forward to a possible future. However, as with anger, if we linger here too long, we do so at our peril.

Plus, we fail to see the underlying cause of the strife we are in and the damage we continue to inflict upon the earth.

Next week’s blog will explore the stages of Depression and Acceptance.

Note:

1. This blog further explores Einstein’s famous dictum about thinking.