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, 29 June 2022

It's Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood

I once owned a T-shirt that read: It’s Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood. If I remember correctly, the graphic was of a young child playing in a field with a couple of butterflies.

Idyllic? Yes. Fancy-free? Yes. Innocent? Yes.

Notwithstanding the sad fact that for many children in the world today, such innocence and playfulness is unattainable; childhood for most of us is a happy and playful time.

Then we grow up, and become mature and responsible adults.

Or do we?

If by mature we mean “having become fully embodied with knowledge and behaviour that recognises the effect of ones actions upon oneself and upon others,” then we might question how many of us reach mature adulthood.

If by responsible we mean (literally) having the capacity to “pledge back” to where we came from; to pledge back to our community, pledge back to our society, and to vow to the planet that sustains us – then we must question whether many “adults” reach this level of responsibility.

The American eco-psychologist and wilderness guide, Bill Plotkin, is one who certainly questions whether many of us grow into mature and responsible adults. Indeed, Plotkin answers his own questioning by averring that most “adults” in western-styled societies “… amount to little more than an advanced version of adolescence.” What’s more, Plotkin names the state of western societies today as living during a period of “patho-adolescence.” This state, he laments, is “… a way of life that emphasizes social acceptability, materialism, self-centered individualism, and superficial security rather than authenticity, intimate relationships, soul-infused individual service, and creative risk and adventure.”1

Pretty damning, huh?

It’s a criticism that is hard to argue with. Just look at our political leadership, or the corporate bosses of industry, or the military hawks and strategists. Nor do we need to look outward to these decision-makers and leaders. When we look around our own neighbourhoods and take a wander through the nearest shopping mall then we can see examples of “patho-adolescence” everywhere.

Childhood Can Rescue Us

However, all is not lost. It is possible to step off the immature and irresponsible path and take on a truly adult life.

How?

Only with great determination.2

Bill Plotkin has spent much of his adult life discovering how this may be achieved, and then guiding others towards their own discovery.

In his book, Nature and the Human Soul, he maps out an eight-stage journey of eco-soulcentric human development.

These eight stages begin in babyhood, pass through childhood and adolescence, and move onto adulthood and elderhood. Plotkin thoroughly outlines the opportunities, gifts, tasks, lessons, and desires of each stage. Each stage is important, and no stage moreso than any other. It is also extremely difficult to move from one stage to the next without having fully encompassed the tasks and lessons of the previous stage.

So, what happens if one day during the years we would normally ascribe to “adulthood” or “elderhood” we wake up and ask ourselves – Am I truly living a mature and responsible adulthood (elderhood)? or Am I still stuck in a patho-adolescent lifestyle and stage?

No need for despair. It is always possible to step into a previous stage and discover the lessons, and complete the tasks of that stage.

That takes determination and courage. First, the courage to admit this to oneself, and second, to actively engage the stage which may mean making it public. (Apropos of this, note that “creating a secure and authentic social self” is the primary task of the third stage of Plotkin’s journey – what he calls The Thespian at the Oasis.)

Accordingly, there was wisdom in those words on my T-shirt. Childhood is a time of playfulness, and in that playfulness we learn some things. For example, we learn about our ego and innocence, we learn to discover the delights of the natural world, we learn about the culture we were born into, we start to learn about ourselves and our unique place in the world.

Truly – It Is Never Too Late To Have a Happy (and ecologically and psychologically sustaining) Childhood.

Notes

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

2. This line comes from the opening paragraphs of a small book by a friend of mine, in which the narrator is conversing with an eagle and asks: “Could I grow feathers?” The eagle replies: “Only with great determination.” Anson, Conversations with an Eagle, Happy Tadpole Publishing, Coffs Harbour, Australia, 2021. See my review of this gem of a book here.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Solstice For The Soul

Today (21 June 2022) is the Winter Solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere (Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.) It is the day on which the sun (sol) appears to stand still (stice.) The sun appears to stop on its journey on the horizon towards the north. It is almost as if the sun is standing still for a day or so, contemplating the future: shall I journey further, or shall I return the way I have come over the past six months?

Viewed this way – as a time to stop and ponder and consider – perhaps we too could take a day or so to do the same. To consider our own soul, and especially how and where our unique soul fits within the world-soul.

To say that we rarely take such opportunity in this crazy, fast-paced, busy-busy world is perhaps stating the obvious. But, it needs to be stated. We need to stop and consider, and ponder.

How do we fit within the world-soul?

What is the world-soul?

Around 360 BC., Plato wrote one of his dialogues, Timaeus, and in it described the anima mundi (world-soul) and declared that,

“…we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason [...] a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself.1

The anima mundi (world-soul) then; is the life force, the animating principle, the very essence and soul, of a fully interconnected entity. A connected entity in which we all are a necessary and integral part, one in which the complexity and diversity is such that we conscious human beings cannot grasp the magnitude of this complexity. We can only gaze with awe and wonder at the mystery of it all.

Each of us has our own unique soul, even if we deny this, or do not actively seek or recognise it.

Centuries after Plato the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung further explored the anima mundi, and lamented our disconnection from the soul of the world. He wrote that,

“The development of Western philosophy during the last two centuries has succeeded in isolating the mind in its own sphere and in severing it from its primordial oneness with the universe. (Humanity has) ceased to be the microcosm and eidolon (image or representation of an idea – ed.) of the cosmos, and “anima” is no longer the consubstantial scintilla, spark of the Anima Mundi, World Soul”2

Perhaps today, as the sun stops to linger and ponder on its back-and-forth journey, we too, could pause and consider our soul’s place in the world-soul.

Notes:

1. PlatoTimaeus 30b–d, translated by W.R.M. Lamb

2. Carl Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Three Ways To Survive

We’re all on target to be Carbon Zero by 2050. Right?

The Tipping Points have not been tipped yet. Right?

We still have time to avert the climate crisis. Right?

The signs and indicators do not suggest an affirmative answer to any of those assertions.

We have entered a period of social/environmental collapse. We are in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction. The biologist Eugene Stoermer is credited with coining the term Anthropocene – the proposed geologic epoch in which humanity has so transformed and exploited the Earth that our (human) actions and behaviours now drive the fate of every living being upon the planet.

If we fully understand the meaning of Anthropocene and mass extinction, then we have to also admit this: Homo Sapiens is on that Extinction list.

However, we know from previous mass extinctions that although many species go extinct, there are also many who survive – albeit depleted severely in numbers.

If Homo Sapiens is to be one of those ‘surviving’ species then how will we achieve that? One thing is for sure; that is that our behaviour towards the planet, towards other-than-human species, and towards and amongst ourselves, must change.

There appears (to this writer anyway) only three possible pathways towards this behaviour change.

1.     We choose – individually, collectively, socially, economically – to change.

2.     Some authority (governments, UN or other global authority, benevolent dictator …) enacts legislation to compel behavioural change.

3.     The planet will force us to do so.

How likely are these three pathways?

1. We do not appear to be changing by choice. Since the turn of the century we have seen an increase in energy use per capita, as well as the consequent increase in carbon emissions. There is no sign of this abating. We are eating red meat at a greater rate than we did so 50 years ago. Although covid reduced our air travel, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects traveller numbers to reach 4 billion in 2024, exceeding pre-covid levels.1 We are driving more cars and driving them further.

It is not just consumers who are not choosing different behaviours. Producers too, are continuing to produce not only their primary products. They are producing by-products2 in bucket-loads; CO, methane, and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs.) Also in the product mix are: soil loss, polluted waterways, animal habitat loss, air pollution, toxic waste, e-waste, deforestation, and a whole host of other local and/or globally damaging products.

Neither consumers nor producers are choosing to make behavioural changes.

2. How likely are we to accept legislation that requires us to make the behavioural changes necessary? The events of the past couple of years would suggest it is highly unlikely. No matter which side of the coronavirus/vaccination debate you took (even if you took neither) it is impossible to deny that we were socially divided and polarised. Recent events in US political history are further evidence for a deeply polarised society.

Behind that polarisation seems to be an unwillingness to adhere to governmental decrees. “I will not be dictated to,” is the mantra. Or “if I am willing, then it will only be to this dictator, not that one.”

The massive threat of collapse and extinction is unlikely to cause us to accept authority as an arbiter of behavioural change.

Even were we persuaded to accept governmental legislation, there is little, if any, indication that governments anywhere in the world sufficiently recognise the direness of our situation.

3. That leaves the planet. Already, at least four of the nine planetary boundaries seem to have been surpassed.3

Only a few years ago it was thought that the earth’s climate related tipping points would not be tipped this century.4 It now appears that some of these tipping points will be tipped well before the end of the century. Indeed, there are some indications that some may have already passed their tipping point.

As we pass these tipping points and planetary boundaries, the planet will force behavioural change upon us.

Sadly, for Homo Sapiens, it appears that the planet is the only actor that is willing to get us to behave differently.

And, just to rub it in. The planet is indifferent as to whether we make it or not.

Notes:

1. IATA Press Release No. 10, 1 March 2022. https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/2022-releases/2022-03-01-01/  Accessed 14 June 2022.

2. Although commonly referred to as by-products, these should really be termed products. The label by-product suggests something that the producer is not responsible for and can be dismissed as an externality.

3. https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html  Accessed 14 June 2022

4. See a previous rainbowjuice.org blogpiece here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Hospicing Modernity (Book Review)

How do you review (let alone, read) a book that spends 12 of the first 40 pages warning you off reading it? Yes, Hospicing Modernity, by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, is one such book.1

Perhaps to do so you must borrow the traits of one of Vanessa Machado de Oliveira’s grandmothers – determination, endurance, and confidence. It is fitting that Vanessa Machado de Oliveira titles the Preface to her book, My Grandmothers’ Gifts. One Grandmother comes from German heritage and the other Guarani (an indigenous people of South America.) So it is that Vanessa Machado de Oliveira is well placed between both worlds – the coloniser and the colonised – to write this book.

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira is right to make this buyer beware warning. This is not an easy book to read. Indeed, it is uncomfortable reading.

Little wonder. For, as Vanessa Machado de Oliveira tells us, “Modernity conditions us to avoid, escape, or want to be rescued from discomfort…”

(Before continuing, there is one further caveat that may be worth considering. If you are a reader who wishes to change the world, then after you have read this, you may want to do so in a totally different way than you were before reading it. That is, if you wish to change the world at all – you have been warned!)

So, let go of your desire for comfort, disregard what you thought of social/environmental change, and allow Vanessa Machado de Oliveira’s experience, knowledge, and wisdom guide you through some thought experiments and exercises that will leave you questioning not only the system we are trapped within, but also your own self.

Modernity does trap us.

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira’s gift to us in this book is to make the bars, the padlocks, and the security cameras, of this trap visible.

But, once visible, what do we do?

This is where the title of the book is significant. Consider a hospice. Most often it is a place in which those who are dying are cared for and supported through their dying. It is not a place for healing. So it is with modernity. Vanessa Machado de Oliveira warns us against wanting to fix, reform, or otherwise solve a set of problems. Modernity is a predicament, not a problem (nor even a set of problems.) Problems potentially have solutions. Predicaments do not, only an outcome – which we are unable to predict or plan for.

Indeed, trying to fix problems, and find solutions is, she says, part of the very nature of modernity itself.

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira suggests that modernity is in its dying stages and as such, the best we can do is to offer our hospicing skills. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so, as we are part and parcel of the very thing that is dying.

But Vanessa Machado de Oliveira does not leave us floundering or grasping at some forlorn hope. She counsels us that, “Whatever happens ‘then’ (the future) depends more on the quality of relationships in the ‘now’ than on the accuracy or appeal of images of the future that one projects as a way forward.”

The journey between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’ will be a difficult and uncomfortable one, and we will not even know where we will end up – or even, if we will end up. However, the  thought experiments and exercises that Vanessa Machado de Oliveira offers us throughout the book at least make the journey possible, albeit uncomfortable.

Get ready to overcome (if you can) the six C’s that Vanessa Machado de Oliveira associates with our ego-logical desires of modernity – comfort, convenience, consumption, certainty, control, and coherence.

Overcome also the warnings given early in the book and read this important addition to the understanding of our times.

Heed also one more warning the author imparts: “I cannot say ‘I hope you enjoy reading this book.’” It may change you though, or at least change the way you perceive modernity.

Note

1. Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, Hospicing Modernity: Facing Humanity’s Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2021.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Right Of Speech - Right Speech

The Right to Freedom of Expression and Speech seems to be an indisputable one doesn’t it? After all, it has been a right for centuries. France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted in 1789 during the French Revolution declared it an inalienable right. Two years later, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected freedom of speech.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 of which declares that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

Today, we hear this right being insisted upon often. It is insisted upon by those wishing to spread misinformation and lies as much as by those wishing to oppose such lies.

Underlying this insistence is the assertion that the individual is paramount. “My rights,” we hear, “are inalienable, and shall not be impinged upon by society.”

The cult of the individual is very much a westernised one. Although, even in western cultures it may be only fairly recent. Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in 1856, said that individualism was “not a word used by our ancestors, for no one could rely solely on themselves to survive and prosper.”1

More recently, individualism has grown another limb – that of Toxic Individualism. Having a belief in oneself, or a self-reliance, is one thing, but that sense of self becomes toxic individualism when an individual refuses to recognise or understand the impact one has on the lives of others and their community.

Right Speech

Several non-westernised cultures have a differing understanding of what it means to be an individual. The individual is not separate from, nor separate to, other people or nature. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, recognises that “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. We inter-are.”

This concept of inter-connection and non-separation is quite different to the westernised idea of the individual as standing apart.

The recognition of inter-connection has, as would be expected, a bearing upon speech. Less emphasis is given to Right of Speech and more given to Right Speech.

Right Speech is given prominence in the 8-fold path of the Buddha. Although often translated as right, the Pali word samma, could also be translated as best, wise, skillful. Indeed, such translations may be the better ones, as the word right has unfortunate associations with one side of the right-wrong dualism.

If we consider the concept of Wise Speech, Skillful Speech, or Best Speech, we begin to understand the impact our speech can have on those around us, and even upon ourselves.

When the Buddha introduced the 8-fold path, he also spoke of the connection between thoughts, words, deeds, and character. The following poem encapsulates the Buddha’s ideas, although the derivation of the poem is disputed:

“The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And the habit hardens into character;

So watch the thought and its ways with care;

And let it spring from love

Born out of concern for all beings.

As the shadow follows the body,

As we think, so we become.”2

When we speak our words have effects. (If they did not, why would we speak them?) Often we can see the effect our words have had, after we have spoken them. It is as though we watch the ripples flowing behind us in the wake of the ship we are steering. Once the wake has been made, we can no longer control the ripples. Yet, we also have the option to understand the ripples we make, before we make them. This is the bow-wave of our ship. The wake that precedes us. To be a-wake literally means to be so attuned to the wake we are creating that we fully understand its ripples.

The Right Speech of the 8-fold path is further enunciated and specifically advises avoiding, 1. lies, 2. divisive speech, 3. harsh speech, and 4. idle chatter.

What if we were to be mindful of Right Speech as we proclaim our Right of Speech? Would we see the divisiveness, the hatred, the bigotry, and the prejudices we see, and hear, today? Maybe, although I suspect there would be much less. And in that lessening, we might create a space for us to truly listen to one another. We might enter a deep listening, similar to that which Thich Nhat Hanh hopes for:

“Deep listening is the foundation of Right Speech. If we cannot listen mindfully, we cannot practice Right Speech. No matter what we say, it will not be mindful, because we’ll be speaking only our own ideas and not in response to the other person.”

Right Speech does not suggest that we give up our Right to Speech, only that we use it wisely.

Notes:

1. Alexis de Tocqueville, L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution (The Old Regime and the Revolution), 1856.

2. This poem has often been attributed to the Buddha, yet it does not appear in any of the early Buddhist texts. The origin remains uncertain, although many Buddhists would say that the sentiments are those of the Buddha, even if the Buddha did not say them. Other scholars suggest the poem may be of Christian origin from the 19th century.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

A Brief Introduction to Earth Tipping Points

This is a brief Youtube clip introducing the Earth Tipping Points. I created this short clip to help a friend get a glimpse of the tipping points that are likely to send the world into environmental and social collapse. I had not intended to share it wider. However, she persuaded me that it was useful and should be shared wider. Most other videos, she told me, were either too long or highly technical; usually both.

So, the caveats on this clip.

  1. It is short and is intended only as an introduction, not a complete overview,
  2. A lot has been left out of this introduction. Hence, for those wanting to find out more; there are many videos, papers, documents available on the Internet.
  3. If this piques your curiosity, then that is great. We cannot understand the dynamics of climate chaos, of collapse, or the possibilities inherent in the future, without understanding tipping points.
The concept of Tipping Points is fairly recent. Malcolm Gladwell popularised the term with the publication in 2000 of his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. We have, however, understood the phenomenon for a long time. We know it in the saying "the last straw to break the camel's back."

That saying is a useful one. It teaches us some of the lessons of tipping points:

  1. We cannot predict when the final straw will be placed upon the camel's back,
  2. Although it is the final straw that brings the camel to its knees, all the other individual straws contributed,
  3. We cannot assume that the camel will get back up again. If its back has been broken, the chances of it doing so are negligible,
  4. As each straw is being placed upon the camel's back we assume that the camel can continue to hold the load. After all - what is one more little straw?
I urge viewers of this clip to seek out further explanations and clarifications. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Visiting The World

‘I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.’1

Visiting There

Facebook has many quizzes asking us to name (or count) the number of places we have visited: cities, countries, scenic wonders…

But, how many times have we stood in awe at the beauty and wonder right in front of us? How often do we wake with the dawn? Do we listen to the calls and responses of birds? How often have we watched a young child (or pup, or kitten, or cub) take their first tentative, stuttering steps? How many times have we gazed into the eyes of those we love and care for? How many times have we cried; tears of joy, tears of grief, tears of laughter, tears of love?

How many times, too, have we visited our inner selves? Have we visited enough times to know our soul? Have we visited enough times to understand our true place in the world?

The idea, and reality, of tourism, is a fairly recent one in human history. During the Age of Empires (Greek, Egyptian, Roman) some people travelled purely to satisfy their curiosity. Even then though, most travel was by traders or raiders (or variations thereof.) During the Middle Ages, tourism dropped away significantly. It was not until the Renaissance that tourism re-emerged.

That era also introduced colono-tourism to the global arena. We know well the devastating effects this had on indigenous cultures world-wide. From the rape and pillage of Africa and the carving up of that continent for European purposes, to the genocide that swept through the Americas, and the over-running of Pacific societies, including Australia and New Zealand.

Colono-tourism then, and the tourism of today, wreaks havoc on the peoples who have called various places their home. In the process, cultures have been decimated and languages destroyed.

This destruction has not been limited to people, culture, and language. The many other-than-human species upon this planet have faced loss of habitat (homelessness), depopulation, and for many – extinction.

Today, the notion of eco-tourism has been touted as a means by which we might visit the world in a sustainable manner. However, this may not be the case. A very recent (April 2022) paper recognises that the international travel component of eco-tourism to and from the destination has a greater environmental footprint than that of the footprint during the entire length of stay at the destination.2 In other words, eco-tourism is not sustainable.

And all for what?

So that we (the rich, the privileged) can visit. “See the world,” we hear. “Travel broadens the mind” we are told.

Whilst that may be true for a minority of travellers, for the vast majority it is simply an opportunity to take a few “selfies,” and tick the box that says, “Been there, Done that.”

For others, travelling the world is even more damaging. It is an opportunity to export their ideologies of consumerism, exploitation, and superiority. Sadly, this is a truer picture of the modern traveller than is the idealistic one of the “broaden-the-mind” category.

(I must admit that I have been guilty of much of this myself.)

The line from Mary Oliver’s poem at the beginning of this blog reminds us that we don’t need to travel in order to visit the world. We can visit the place on Earth where we are born, live, and die, without really knowing that place, or knowing who we are, and what gifts we may bring to the world.

Abiding Here

Let us not be simply visitors or tourists. Let us be active, creative, and engaged participants. Let us have:

·       The desire to discover our true being,

·       The humility to know that we are but one part of an highly inter-connected world,

·       The curiosity needed to be open to the stories and mysteries of all of life (including other-than-human beings,)

·       The courage to walk into the depths of despair, sadness, and loss the world offers us,

·       The discernment to notice the effects of our actions (whether harmful or beneficial) and be able to modify those actions if need be,

·       The tenacity to keep learning about our unique soul, and our thoughts, feelings, and multi-faceted being,

·       The serenity to stop and listen to and observe, the beauty, the wonder, and the joy, of the fullness of life,

·       The audacity to confront our prejudices, bigotry, and insensitivity to the lived reality of others,

·       The grace to accept the vagaries and vicissitudes life throws us,

·       The willingness to laugh, to cry, to sing, to shout with abandon,

·       The sagacity to know the limits of our knowledge,

·       The temerity to look ourselves in the eye and ask, “Who are you really?”

·       The bravery to let go of our need for comfort and control,

·       The wisdom to let go and accept the impermanence of all things.

Maybe then we might be able to say to ourselves, “I did more than simply visit this world.”

Notes:

1. This is the final line of the poem When Death Comes by the American poet Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019) who was inspired by nature for many of her poems.

2. Maria Serena Mancini et al., Ecological Footprint and Tourism: Development of sustainability monitoring of ecotourism packages in Mediterranean Protected Areas, in “Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism,” 23 April 2022.