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.

Friday 27 September 2019

Science and Spirituality: Adversaries?

Western societies seem overly keen to separate things, to allocate different aspects of life to different boxes.  Woe betide anyone who mixes up the contents of the different boxes.

Perhaps the two most significant boxes are those labelled science and spirituality.  Science is science, and spirituality is spirituality.  They are not to be confused, certainly not connected.  Unified?  Heavens no!  At least this is what the dominant mindset would have us believe.

Yet, has it always been this way?  Interestingly the words science and spiritual only entered the English language in the 14th and 15th centuries respectively.

It seems that previously the two were understood as being two sides of the same coin, they were ways in which our quest for understanding was undertaken.

In modern versions, science tends to ask questions about what is out there, and spirituality about what is in here.  Science today asks “why is the sky blue?” or "how do black holes form?”  Today, spirituality asks “who am I?” or “what is the purpose of life?”

But they are not separate.  They are two aspects of our innate curiosity, and our quest for meaning and identity.

For First Nations people there is no split, nor was there for ancient forebears of western cultures.  The Druids, for example, were the holders of knowledge and wisdom, whether it be knowledge of practical use or that of an esoteric nature.  Furthermore, theirs was a knowledge base firmly rooted in nature.  Indeed, the words Druid and tree come from the same Proto-Indo-European root word – deru.
So, why is that today we are so keen to put these two aspects of our quest into separate boxes?  And why is it that, by separating them, we tend to give one greater precedence than the other?  Some of us esteem science and dismiss any spiritual element.  Others put spirituality at the forefront and disdain science.

That is a folly, and a dangerous one at that.  The danger lies more with the offshoots of spirituality (religion) and science (technology).

However, the original folly lies in venerating one over the other.

The Time Before

Let’s return to the time before science and spirituality were split apart by western minds.

The ancient shamans, elders, and wisdom-keepers were keen observers of nature, both “outer” nature and “inner” nature.  Had they not been so keen, and hence able to recognise cause and effect, there is little chance that we would have been here today.

Their inner-directed search led them to understand clearly that humans are part and parcel of that “outer” nature – that humans are not separate from nature.

These nature-based scientist/spiritualists recognised that it is a
“…human obligation to maintain the balance and health of the natural world as a solemn spiritual duty that an individual must perform daily – not simply as admirable, abstract ethical imperatives that can be ignored as one chooses.”1
We see in this quote a sacredness bestowed upon scientific knowledge of the natural world, and the spiritual journey of each person.

Today’s Mistake

And so, today, when the science of cause and effect is ignored and dismissed, we are making a big mistake.  We make an even bigger mistake when we dismiss science in the name of religion, or even spirituality (as some New Age spiritualities are wont to do).

Similarly, we make a mistake when spirituality is dismissed because it cannot be measured and tested according to “scientific” rules.

Science and spirituality are not separate domains with nothing (or little) to offer one another.

We are creatures of nature, and as such have a part to play in nature.  A part that has consequences, and hence a part we must take responsibility for.

It could be said that it is our sacred duty to be response-able participants upon this planet.

1. Peter Knutson & David Suzuki, Wisdom of the Elders, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd., North Sydney, Australia, 1992.

Thursday 19 September 2019

What Do I Say To Young People?

For 800,000 years the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere oscillated between about 170 parts per million (ppm) and 300 ppm.  Prior to that the concentration had fluctuated wildly, sometimes up to 2000 ppm.  Then around 5 million years ago levels began to decrease and eventually stabilise in the 170-300 ppm range around one million years ago.  Well before homo sapiens began to roam the planet.

When I was born the atmospheric CO2 concentration level had just broken through the top end of the 170-300 ppm range.

Only 60 years later (a blink in geologic time) concentrations surpassed 400 ppm and this year reached 415 ppm.

That CO2 increase has directly caused the warming of the planet.  We, homo sapiens, have hugely contributed to the increase.

In my lifetime atmospheric  CO2 concentration has leapt over 100 ppm to a concentration level unseen for more than 800,000 years – and at a rate 100 times faster than the “natural” background rate.

Tomorrow (20 September 2019), students and young people all over the world will be striking for action on climate change.  They have been doing so since 2012, and moreso since August 2018 when 15 year old Greta Thunberg took time off school to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament.

These students and young people are challenging older people to take notice, and to do something.

As one who grew up contributing to, or at least, benefiting from, the increase in CO2 concentrations, what do I say to these young people?  I don't know the answer to that question, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

The first thing I have to say is – nothing!  Absolutely nothing.

Just listen.

When I was young, I and my cohorts, accused my elders of not listening.  My elders were not listening to our call for an end to the Vietnam War.  My elders were not listening to our call for an end to apartheid and other racist regimes.  My elders were not listening to our calls for a halt to native forest logging, not listening to our calls to abandon nuclear arms and nuclear power.

Now, I am of the “older” generation.  How can I possibly choose to not listen to younger generations.  Conscientiously I cannot.  Nor should any of my cohorts.

The next thing to say does not involve words either.  It is about what I do, or do not do.  I do not go on living in unconcerned comfort as most of my generation has always done. 

I grew up in a generation which demanded individual rights - a mistaken claim.  I cannot now assume that it is my right to play and luxuriate in the comfortable nest created by my generation’s consumerist approach of the past 60 years.

Stephen Jenkinson (1) said it well when he said that “now is not an okay time for okay people to be okay.”  He’s right.  And young people know he is right, and are not afraid to tell us, as they will be tomorrow.

So then.  Listen.  Don’t get comfortable.

Then, I have to take responsibility.  I have to become aware of the ripples of consequences (the wake) that flow out behind my behaviour and actions.

Four Effective Choices

The four most effective things in terms of climate change that I can be responsible for as an individual are:
  • limiting the number of children I have,
  • drastically reducing the number of international flights I make,
  • eating a meat-free diet,
  • going car less.
Note that each of these choices is an active one.  I must continually make the choice.  They are not choices that once made I do not need to consider again.  Whereas putting a solar panel on my roof, for example, is a passive choice.  Apart from maintenance choices, it is not a choice I need to continuously make.

My choices then become part of my lifestyle.  I make them over and over again.  I do not renege, I do not give up, I do not abandon younger generations.

I make these choices as an older person who accepts response-ability.

My first choice though, is to listen to the students and young people tomorrow.

1. Stephen Jenkinson is the author of Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Optimism, Responsibility, and Social Change

Oftentimes when I turn on the TV news I am confronted by what appears to be a world of increasing polarisation.  Factions and fractions seem to be displayed everywhere.

I hear women calling men out for their misogyny and sexual predation.

I listen to victims of colonisation decry white supremacy and racial abuse.

I watch demonstrators railing against the inaction of governments on climate change.

I could sink into the couch in a self-consuming wave of despair.  I could also be “shamed and blamed” into action.

I’ve done both.

Neither works.  Neither despair, nor shaming brings about social change.

However, acceptance and responsibility do.

I’m not talking about a complacent form of acceptance.  I mean accepting that something is real, that it happened.  It means recognising that I am part of a system that has given rise to sexism, racism, and climate change.

And that’s where responsibility comes in.  When I accept my part in those systems, I can accept my responsibility for contributing to (or at least benefiting from) those systems.

As a man I have benefited from the patriarchal system.  As a man of European heritage I have benefited from colonisation and the continuing racist system.

As an unthinking consumer I have contributed to the rise in carbon emissions.  I have benefited from the levels of “comfort” our consumerist system has created.

I have been a part of creating and maintaining those systems.

Despair and shame do not allow me to change, nor do they enable me to bring about social change on a systematic level.

My re-sponse-ability does.

When I recognise my part in the systems, when I recognise my responsibility, then I can make a choice.  I can choose to be re-sponsible.  And, when I take on those choices, my sense of optimism increases.  I am optimistic because I understand that my choices can make a difference.  That difference may be only slight, it may be huge (if we understand the Butterfly Effect).

I do not know if my choices make small differences or huge ones.  I don’t need to know.  I just need to know that I am taking responsibility for my choices and the consequences of those choices.

So, I can stop making sexist and racist jokes and can question others when I hear sexist or racist jokes being told.

I can make choices about the footprint I leave on this earth.  I can choose to ride my bike or walk the few kilometres to town, to the beach and bush, or to a climate change rally.  I can choose a meat-free diet.  I can choose to not take an international flight.

When I take responsibility for my choices I do so recognising that sexism, racism, and climate change exist.  I am not denying them, I am not wallowing in despair, and I am not feeling ashamed.

I am optimistic.

I am attempting to take responsibility.