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, 19 January 2022

Truth of Trees (Part 1)

If you stand in a grove of trees, or in the middle of a forest, surrounded by magnificent, tall, and lofty trees, then you stand in the midst of truth. If we were to think of what entities in nature are most symbolic of truth, then trees would have to be considered as fulfilling that symbolic place. If we ask ourselves what natural entity is solid, what has a firm foundation, what has stood the test of time, then once again, trees have to hold a claim to those ideas.

Trees are excellent symbols for truth. They are unwavering, they remain steadfast, they are solid. Yes, trees and truth seem to go together.

Indeed they do. When we consider the above it comes as no surprise to find that the word tree and the word truth are closely entwined, much like the branches of – well - a tree.

Let’s take a look at the branches of this truth/tree.

Tree is derived from the Old English word treo or treow, and prior to that to the Proto-Germanic word trewam.

Trewam has antecedents in Gothic (triu), Old Norse (tre), Old Saxon (trio), and Old Frisian (tre). All of these have their origins in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word deru.

Deru means firm, solid, steadfast. It is the root word from which we get modern day words such as: duress, durable, endure, betroth, and during.

That (tree) is one of the branches. What of the other branch – truth?

Truth begins with the same PIE word – deru – and passes through Old Germanic (deruitho) to Proto-Germanic (treuwaz, meaning having or being characterised by good faith) on to treuwitho. From there it branched one way into the Mercian words treowð (meaning loyalty or veracity) and triewe (meaning faithful, trustworthy, honest.) It also branched off into West Saxon word triewð.1 Both of these branches lead directly to our modern-day English word truth.

So, when we wander into a woodland, a forest, or the bush, and gaze upon a tree we can imagine its physical as well as its linguistic branches and roots forming a truth.

Yet, these are not the only branches in our truth/tree. At the tip of other branches we find modern English words such as truce, tryst, and trust.

Down near the base of this tree we may notice an early branch that leads away from the main trunk yet is still part of the same tree. This early branch took on a Celtic bearing and deru was morphed into the word Druid.2

Druid – the word evokes a mystical people assembling together in a grove of trees, doesn’t it? It is thought that Druids performed many of their religious ceremonies in oak groves.

Trees have been part of the Earth for 385 million years or so. They must have gathered a lot of truth in their trunks in that long time. Perhaps we have truths to learn from them. I’ll explore this idea in coming blogposts.

Notes:

1. The letter ð (uppercase Ð) is pronounced ‘eth’ and is found in Old English and in modern day Icelandic and Faroese.

2. Druid comes from two Celtic words – dru (from PIE deru) meaning strong, and wid meaning seer.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Stop Digging

Mining for coal (top)
& lithium (bottom)
When you are in a hole that you want to get out of then the first thing to do is: Stop digging!

And, we are in a hole. We dug it ourselves.

This hole we have dug is both a metaphorical one and a physical one.

The metaphorical hole includes (inter alia): pandemics, mass extinction, deforestation, war, terrorism, fisheries depletion, plastic garbage, e-waste, noise and light pollution, food shortages, soil loss, and – yes – the issue du jour (possibly du siècle): climate change.

It is a deep hole. Furthermore, as each of these components intensify, the hole gets bigger, deeper, and more difficult to get out of.

Whatsmore, this metaphorical hole has a physical counterpart. We have been digging holes for centuries. Evidence of Roman copper mines are still visible in Europe. We have been digging for copper, gold, silver, tin, and other elements for many years.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution we began to also dig for coal, oil, and iron ore in huge measure. The machines we created from such exploitation enabled us to dig even larger holes in our search (some would say – greed) for the energy fuels of the economies of the world.

For a long time we could see the environmental damage these holes were doing. We could see the pollution of nearby water systems. We could see the smoke-filled skies. We could smell, and taste, the stench that came from the digging of these holes.

Then, in the second half of the 20th century we also began to notice the unseen damage these holes (and what we extracted from them) did. We began to notice the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere, and the warming of the oceans and the air.

But, still we dug. Still we damaged local ecosystems. Still we polluted waterways. Still we disrupted local, often indigenous, communities.

We continued to dig physical holes. We continued to dig our metaphorical hole.

We started to think that we needed to do something about one aspect of that metaphorical hole. We began to think we should do something about the carbon build-up.

In that single-minded focus we began to think we should stop digging for coal, oil, and gas.

We thought we should do something different.

We thought we should dig for lithium, nickel, cobalt, titanium, silicon, boron, and the other elements required for “alternative” energy.

But, we are still digging.

We are still polluting water systems. We are still disrupting ecosystems. We are still destroying bird and animal habitats. We are still dislocating indigenous communities.

Let’s go back to first principles: Stop Digging.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Don't Look Up - Film Review

“It is as if the world’s astronomers were telling us that an asteroid is heading our way and will make a direct hit destined to wipe out all of life, to which the public responds by remaining fascinated with sporting events, social media, the latest political machinations, and celebrity gossip.”

Reads like the script of the film Don’t Look Up doesn’t it? The above quotation was written almost two years before the film came out. In a highly recommended article in 2019 titled Facing Extinction1 Catherine Ingram addressed the probability of human extinction and possible emotional, psychological, and spiritual responses to that scenario.

Ingram is not the only one who has warned us of such a probability. Many others have done the same, and that is the theme of the film Don’t Look Up.

The film, however, is not another attempt to warn us. It is, unashamedly, a parody of our collective desire to look away (to not look up.)

Certainly, the film is corny, absurd, and over-the-top Hollywoodism and jingoism. As such, it is a film that this reviewer would normally not wish to view. However, as has been said: the experience is not the same thing as the message. The experience of watching this film may be cringe-worthy. The message, however, is compelling. We simply are not taking sufficient (if any) notice of the warnings that scientists, and others, have been trying to tell us since at least the early 1970s.

The film is an analogy and the comet (that is destined to destroy Earth) is a metaphor for a number of inter-connected, mutually reinforcing events. Indeed, it is possible to think of comet as an acronym. The comet metaphorically alludes to (inter alia): Climate change, Overshoot, Mass extinction, Environmental destruction, Techno-addiction.

Many of our sacred cows of distraction are held up in the film and shown for what they really are – dangerous addictions. Whether our addiction be to mobile phones, or celebrity gossip, or the worship of the hero/saviour, Don’t Look Up rails against them all.

This film then, is a warning to take the warnings seriously.

Will it make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.

Does the film offer any hope? Maybe, maybe not. It depends upon what sort of hope you are expecting. The final scenes mirror the final words of Catherine Ingram’s paper with which this review was introduced:

“…it is likely you have had many moments when you knew that love was all that ever really mattered. And in your final breaths it is likely to be all that is left of you, a cosmic story whispered only once.”1

1. Catherine Ingram, Facing Extinction, first published February 2019, updated July 2021. https://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/ accessed 4 January 2022.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Farewell bell hooks and Desmond Tutu

Ubuntu
In just eleven days the world farewelled two of its genuinely great people. On 15th December bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins) died and then on the 26th Desmond Tutu also died. Both bell and Desmond were known for their opposition to racism, and each stood up for the rights of their people to live with dignity and respect.

Each has left a legacy of wisdom and grace.

bell hooks often spoke and wrote about the connections between racism, patriarchy, economic injustice, and poverty. She saw the connections clearly and spent much of her life trying to show them to the world.

Desmond Tutu often spoke and wrote of the connections between all of us. He, perhaps more than any other South African, brought the concept of ubuntu to the rest of the world. The Zulu concept of ubuntu, Tutu described as:

“The philosophy and belief that a person is only a person through other people. In other words, we are human only in relation to other humans. Our humanity is bound up in one another… This interconnectedness is the very root of who we are.”

We see here a similar message. Desmond Tutu describing our interconnectedness, and bell hooks reminding us that ignoring our connections gives rise to social classifications and thence the intersection between oppression.

Perhaps the most radical offering that each of them gifted to the world was their understanding of the role forgiveness and compassion could play. Radical – because forgiveness and compassion are often seen (by all sides of the political spectrum) as “soft options.” Neither of these two pillars of humanity could be thought of as soft. Let’s hear from bell first.

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet, at the same time, remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

This is a truly radical question, for it shifts us away from a good/evil, right/wrong, me/you, us/them dualism, towards a recognition of our common humanity (faults and all.)

Desmond Tutu grappled with exactly this question throughout his long life (he died at age 90.) His penultimate book, published in 2015, was a collaboration with his daughter – Mpho – titled The Book of Forgiving.1

In that book he outlined a four-fold path of forgiveness, contrasting this with the Revenge Cycle – a never ending continuing cycle of violence, harm, revenge/retaliation, violence…

For Tutu, forgiveness was not just a practice with personal or familial benefit; it also has benefit at world and global level.

Yes, within days of one another the world has said farewell to two of its wise elders.

I will leave the final words to Desmond Tutu.

“We can’t create a world without pain or loss or conflict or hurt feelings, but we can create a world of forgiveness. We can create a world of forgiveness that allows us to heal from those losses and pain and repair our relationships.”

Note:
1. Desmond M. Tutu and Mpho A. Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, William Collins, London, 2014.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Firestorm (Book Review)

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up. So did Greg Mullins. I didn’t become a fireman, but Greg Mullins did.

Now, Greg Mullins has written a book about his experience as a bushfire fighter in Australia, including being part of the battle against some of the most devastating bushfires in the world.

His book, Firestorm,1 is far more chilling than anything that I went on to write, or to read for that matter. Furthermore, his book is factual. This is no work of imagination. This is not fiction.

This is a chilling account of how bushfires (all around the world, not just in Australia) are becoming more intense, more frequent, with longer “seasons,” and much, much harder to control. With fifty years experience, Greg Mullins asks: ‘Why?’

His answer is simple and to the point: climate change. During a research visit to California in the mid-1990s Mullins was introduced to early scientific papers on climate change by the Captain of the Oakland Fire Department. Mullins has read many papers since, and talked with dozens of experts.

But it is primarily his experience and witnessing of the changes in bushfires that leads him to make the clear connection between a warming planet and these changes.

If Greg Mullins could find a word that means “the unprecedented increase in unprecedented events” then I assume he would have used it in his book. The word – unprecedented – occurs often in his book. And not without reason.

Mullins lists, and expands upon, many of the unprecedented events and patterns associated with bushfires in Australia.

There can few more knowledgeable and experienced bushfire experts in the world than the author of this un-put-downable book. He was the Commissioner of New South Wales (NSW) Fire and Rescue from 2003 until retiring in 2017 (the second longest serving since the service began in 1884.) Since his retirement he has returned to bushfire fighting as a volunteer with the brigade with which he began his long career in 1973.

Greg Mullins has received many awards, including the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in 2001 and Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2018. He knows what he is talking (writing) about.

In 2019 he was a founding member of Emergency Leadersfor Climate Action (ELCA.) He writes in the book about the founding of this group of former chiefs and deputy chiefs of fire services and other emergency services from throughout Australia. He also outlines their frustration at not being able to take their warning of coming bushfire disaster to the Australian government (and Prime Minister in particular) before the cataclysmic fires of 2019/20 (referred to as Black Summer.2)

The chapter on Black Summer is the central chapter in the book. It tells in grim reality of the devastation of those fires: 24 million hectares burnt; more than 3,000 homes destroyed. Plus, thousands of other schools, shops, and farm buildings; 35 people directly by the fire, and a further 417 killed by the smoke, as well as 4,500 hospitalisations; and up to 3 billion (yes, you read that correct – billion) animals killed. It was – unprecedented.

When Black Summer did occur, Mullins and others were still side-lined (sometimes ridiculed by shock-jock radio hosts and other media commentators). They were told: “This is not the time to talk about climate change.”

If then was not the time, then when is, Greg Mullins could be forgiven for asking. Certainly, his book is an outstanding contribution to the time to talk.

Notes:

1. Greg Mullins, Firestorm: Battling Super-charged Natural Disasters, Viking, Australia, 2021

2. Black Summer began in late July/early August 2019 and continued until May 2020. The statutory NSW Bush Fire Danger Period (bushfire season) runs from 1 October until 31 March. Black Summer extended that season considerably.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Excitement Of Life

Today, where I live, marks an easing of restrictions on the wearing of masks in public. At my local café I asked the person who served me how they were. “How are you?” I asked. The reply came back.

“I am very well this morning. We don’t have to wear a mask.”

The barista who served me made a similar comment, then added. “Isn’t it strange that we are excited about something like this, about returning to normal?”

That got me thinking. Yes, it is exciting. Pursuing that thinking, I arrived at the next question:

What gets us excited about life? What makes a normal life exciting? What stirs us, what rouses us to participate in (normal) life?

Literally, excite means to set something in motion in an outward direction. What feelings do we wish to express? What internal emotions are stirred within us that we wish to show to the world?

Excitement in our contemporary world tends to suggest something we are looking forward to eagerly, or that something we have witnessed or experienced brings up feelings of joy, delight, and wonder.

In its literal sense excitement could also be an expression of sadness or even something stronger – revulsion maybe.

Whatever it may be, to be excited is to be able to express our full gamut of emotions. When we do this, we enter our world fully present to what it has to offer, and how we decide to experience it.

So, what excites you? What feelings spread through your body when you first wake from sleep? What emotions do you feel when you interact with another person – perhaps the barista at your local café? What emotions does the aroma of the coffee, or its taste, allow you to experience?

Such excitement is available to us every day, not just those days when we head back to normalcy.

Perhaps I will shift my greeting from one of “How are you?” to one of “What excites you today?”

Friday, 10 December 2021

Politicians Have Won - Again!

Last weekend in the State of Australia in which I live elections were held for local government. As expected, the predictable candidates won again. All of them, every last one of them are – politicians.

When the results come in, there will be some who cheer and others weep. Some voters will be glad, others sad. Many electors may even be mad.

From the complaints, moans, and groans I heard leading up to this election, it appears that this campaign has been little different to others. There have been complaints of cronyism and collusion, all the way up to allegations of corruption.

Could any less have been expected?

When would-be politicians are campaigning for election, money is key. Money buys exposure, and exposure translates into votes.

And it is the poor voter who is left bemoaning the outcome.

During the campaign, and following the casting of votes, I heard such statements as: “I’ll be glad when the election is over,” or “Thank god that’s over for another three years.”

All this is a sad state of affairs for at least three reasons:

1.     The to-and-fro name-calling and allegation and counter-allegation by politicians and their supporters should not be how we conduct our collective decision-making processes.

2.     In response to this, electors feel disappointed, unheard, and sometimes angry. It is as if elections elicit a feeling of angst amongst the electorate.

3.     The desire on the part of many electors that the elections be over-and-done-with as soon as possible sadly belies what should be an engaging part of civic life.

Can this be any different?

Yes, it can – if we think differently. And – if we think systematically.

Donella Meadows was one of the foremost systems thinkers in the world. Her book Thinking In Systems,1 published posthumously, set out twelve leverage points at which to intervene in a system. She ranked these leverage points according to the effectiveness with which change may happen.

According to Meadows, the least effective leverage point was to change the numbers in the system. In terms of our political system, this translates to changing the politicians, changing the individual men and women who sit in parliaments, senates, and Council chambers.

Far more effective leverage points are to intervene at the level of goals, and paradigms. Doing so, requires us to think more deeply about what the purpose of our political system is and what assumptions is it based upon.

At present, we are simply changing the constituent parts. We are doing nothing to change the system. Yet, the system is not serving us. If it were, would there be so much angst around election time?

Our present mechanism for selecting those who are charged with making our collective and social decisions rests upon elections. What if we no longer used elections for that purpose?

What if we used random selection instead? What if those making our public decisions were selected like a jury?

“But, but, but…” The objections are many. When distilled, most objections can be encapsulated as: “But, that’s not democracy!”

It isn’t? Well, actually, it is.

Ancient Athens (the “birthplace” of democracy) used a process of sortition to select their decision-makers. Sortition is a system of random selection, and the Athenians used it in preference to elections.

I have written about sortition many times on this blog site, so I will not traverse the topic much further here.2

However, consider this: Would the three negative aspects of elections outline above be reduced under a sortition system?

I suggest, if the question is seriously pondered, and sortition fully appraised, then the answer has to be – “Yes.”

Sortition may not rid us completely of the three sad features, but it could seriously reduce them.

 Notes:

1. Donnella H Meadows (ed. Diana Wright), Thinking in Systems, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, 2008

2. In the “Search this site” box type in the word sortition to be taken to blogs where I explore sortition much more fully.