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, 29 December 2020

21: Coming Of Age

Turning 21 has long been the coming of age for young men and women in most western cultures.  A 21st birthday is still often celebrated in a special way: with speeches, an acknowledgement that the Adolescent is now an Adult, the presentation of a symbolic key that unlocks the future.  It is a significant event in one’s life journey.

Could turning 21 be significant for us culturally and socially as well?  We are about to enter the 21st year of the 21st century.  Are we likely to move from collective Adolescence to collective Adulthood?

In 2021 will we come of age?  Will we shift from an adolescent mindset to an adult mindset?  Will we be given the key to unlock our collective future?

We have been living a collective adolescent life and lifestyle for most of the past twenty or more centuries.  We have been continuing to live a collective Adolescence for the first 20 years of this century.

We have been driven by our collective adolescent ego; placing ourselves at the centre of the world where only we matter.  The Buddhist scholar, David Loy, names this collective ego our wego.  Loy describes wego as our “…deluded sense of collective self.”1  For Loy, our wego manifests at a collective level in similar ways to the ego’s manifestation at an individual level – in ill will, greed, and delusion.

Loy notes that these “three poisons” play out in our institutions.  Institutionalised greed plays out in our consumption levels, so much so that “the economy” now is often considered as of more importance than people’s well-being or the health of the planet.

Institutionalised ill will plays out in our heightened militarisation and penchant for retribution and retaliation.

And institutionalised delusion sees us separating ‘us’ from ‘them’ and the continuing polarisation of the world.

Whilst the development of an ego in and individual Adolescent can be a healthy one, remaining stuck in an ego-centric world view is unhealthy.  The same is true for us collectively.  Sadly, a large proportion of the population of western-styled cultures are stuck in what Bill Plotkin terms ‘patho-adolescence.’2

Plotkin is particularly scathing of Westernized societies, concluding that,

“…many people of adult age suffer from a variety of adolescent psychopathologies – incapacitating social insecurity, identity confusion, extremely low self-esteem, few or no social skills, narcissism, relentless greed, arrested moral development, recurrent physical violence, materialistic obsessions, little or no capacity for intimacy or empathy, substance addictions, and emotional numbness.”

Whew!  That’s damning isn’t it?  Yet, if we check it out, sadly he is not wrong.  He suggests that signs of this ‘patho-adolescence’ can be clearly seen in our political leaders, celebrities, captains of industry, and media personalities.

Socially and collectively, we are no different.  Western-styled societies are trapped in a patho-adolescent stage of development.  Our collective wego reigns.

Twenty-One

So then, how likely are we to collectively shift from our Adolescent preoccupation to a more Adult-like mindset?

Not without a lot of work.  The work that needs to be done must take on many forms.  It is personal work, as we are all trapped in our egos and must find our way for our egos to become servants rather than masters.  It is collective and cultural work, for we are all products of our culture, and co-creators of our culture.

It is institutional work.  Our institutions reflect our values, and our institutions shape our values.  Our work must turn that around.

It is relational work.  The ways in which we relate to one another (not just our friends and family) has a massive impact upon our personal emotional and psychological states.  The ways we relate to one another also has a massive impact upon the well-being of our collective selves, and the planet as a whole.

Are we willing to do this work (individually and collectively) now that we are turning 21?  Are we willing to become true Adults in a world so sorely in need of such?

Notes:

1. David Loy, Wego: The Social Roots of Suffering, in Mindful Politics, ed. Melvin McLeod, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006.

2. Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In

 In 1966 and 1967 Timothy Leary1 uttered the counter-cultural exhortation to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”  The phrase pointed towards a new consciousness, abetted by drugs, that would allow the young generation of the time to break through the conventions of society.

Since then things have changed; not in the way Timothy Leary and others would have desired.  Many of the conventions of Leary’s days have stayed with us, some becoming even more entrenched.  Leary’s hoped for new consciousness has yet to be fully realised.

In 1967 consumerism was something relatively new, having only since World War 2 really begun its pernicious rise to an almost overarching goal of humanity.  Television had just made its way into most households over the previous decade.  The telephone was firmly attached (via telephone wires) within the confines of private homes.  Photographs, if taken at all, were taken by black-and-white cameras and the film then taken to a chemist (or other outlet) for developing and printing.  The final photograph was not available for viewing until two or three days (or more if the film roll was still in the camera) after the photograph had been taken.  Digital photos were still three decades away.  Movies were something to be seen only in theatres.  Even recorded music could only be personally listened to by purchasing a record (45 or LP) and taking it home to play on a record-player.

The rapid rise in technology since 1967, gaining even more momentum with the coming of the new millennium, has resulted in society becoming ever more bound by convention than it had been when Leary said his famous words.

Today, it may be more appropriate to call for society to turn off, tune out, drop in.

Turn Off

In 2019 more than 1.5 billion mobile phones were sold globally.  That is almost 3,000 every minute!  There are now more than 14 billion mobile phones in the world – almost two for every single man, woman, and child on the planet.

Our fascination with the mobile phone has grown to such an extent that it could be claimed that mobile phone use is our number one addiction.  Many may be inclined to think this is mainly an addiction confined to young people.  Not so.  American research shows that there is little difference in the ownership of mobile phones over all age groups.

Addiction has a number of characteristics, including: an inability to stop the behaviour, withdrawal from social interaction, keeping a steady supply, risky behaviours, obsessing, and denial.  Can anyone reasonably claim that these characteristics are not applicable to mobile phone use?  Unless of course, the last of these characteristics – denial – takes centre stage.

We know the damaging side effects of this addiction.  Excessive use of mobile phones can induce: headaches, insomnia, fatigue, memory loss, and dizziness.  The use of mobile phones has seen an increase in rates of depression and suicide amongst American teens following the release of the iPhone and iPad, according to some studies.

Social interaction is lessened by the use of mobile phones.  This phenomenon is easily attested to by simply observing people in everyday situations.

Turn off!

Tune Out

A mobile phone, of course, is no longer simply a phone.  It is, especially Smart Phones, a complete entertainment and communications centre.

In 2015 the number of hours spent watching a screen (TV, PC, mobile/Smart phone, tablet) ranged from an average of two and a half hours in Asia/Pacific to almost five hours in North America.  That is just the average.  Many, of course, are consuming many more hours than this.  Studies show a strong correlation between screen viewing time and obesity.  There is also a correlation with unreal perceptions of crime, resulting in greater fear of crime.  This leads inevitably to an increase in victim identification.

This excess of “screen-time” and passively consuming entertainment naturally has an unhealthy impact upon social interactions.  Combined with the use of mobile phones and similar devices it is little wonder that feelings of isolation, alienation, and loneliness are increasing.  The sad corollary of this is that these feelings can be drivers towards other forms of addiction, especially drug and alcohol addictions.

Tune out!

Drop In

Since the beginning of the 21st century there has been a small, but growing, awareness that many of the ills of the world stem from our disconnection from nature, from each other, and even from our own selves.

Many experiments and methods in eco-psychology, re-wilding, deep ecology, permaculture, and other nature-based practices, are attempting to re-discover our connections. 

Some have suggested that by using these methods it is possible to drop in to our proper relationship with nature.  We can drop in to our rightful and unique niche in the fabric of the world. 

Far from dropping out, we are no longer seeing nature, and other people, as separate from us.  We are not islands, entire unto ourselves.  We are connected, and we drop in to our place, much like a jigsaw piece in the bigger picture.

Drop in!

Note:

1.  Timothy Leary (1920-1996) was an American psychologist and writer who advocated strongly for the use of psychedelic drugs.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Thinking Outside The Box (Part 2)

Last weeks blog began an exploration of the box that constrains our thinking.  If we are to think outside the box, then what is this box constructed of.  Part 1 explored three of the six sides of the box: materialism, objectivity, and linearity.  Let us explore the other three sides.

Side 4 (Separation): In many ways Side 1 (materialism) is what enables this side of the box to be constructed.  If everything is simply matter, then everything can be seen as separate. 

Separation tells us that every phenomenon has its own separate identity.  Separation suggests that, although there may be a connection between two things, they remain separate.  If the connection is broken, then neither is changed in anyway.  Our own lives prove the untruth of this.  Think of when a connection with someone you are fond of is broken.  Perhaps the other person goes to live in another country or dies.  Can you honestly say that the broken connection has not changed you in some way?  I suspect not.

The western world view has attempted, at least since the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolutions, to understand and explain the world by breaking the world into pieces.  We have looked at the parts of the whole tried to understand each part – by its separateness.  We have even broken down our attempts to understand into “disciplines” – medicine, astronomy, geology, psychology, history, architecture, mathematics, physics, anatomy, …  And, within those disciplines we have sub-divided yet again. 

But separation is a myth.  Most indigenous cultures have understood the wholeness of the world, and cosmos, as have many of the Eastern spiritual traditions.  In these traditions everything is so inter-connected that it becomes impossible to explain one aspect without consideration of other aspects.  Thich Nhat Hanh (a Vietnamese Buddhist monk) coined the phrase interbeing to describe this understanding.

Side 4 needs to be broken through.

Side 5 (Control): If things are separate material objects then it is possible to control them.  At least, that is what this constraint tells us.  We can control ourselves and, by extension, things around us.  If we can control the inputs then we can control the outputs, and consequently we can control the outcomes.

Such thinking is a terrible constraint.  Not only is it a constraint, but it can have disastrous consequences.  Our desire to control nature has led to environmental destruction.  Our desire to control others has led to domestic violence, wars, terrorism, and all sorts of chauvinistic attitudes.  Our desire to control ourselves has led to anxiety, depression and many other (modern day) mental health issues.

Chaos Theory, and the Butterfly Effect, have shown this thinking to be in error.  A small (sometimes even apparently inconsequential) change in the initial conditions can have an enormous effect upon the final outcome.  Not only can the outcome be massively different it often is unpredictable.

Mostly we have no control over those small changes.

Consider climate chaos.  A temperature rise of one degree does not sound like much does it?  However, the increasing frequency and intensity of climatic effects such as hurricanes, cyclones, bushfires, floods, heatwaves, oceanic acidification etc are enormous.  Now we may think that perhaps we can reduce that one degree and stave off the effects of climate chaos.  However, we have now set in motion a series of interlinking (no separation here) effects that we humans have no control over.

Yet, it was our thinking we could control that has led to this point.

Side 5 must be smashed through.

Side 6 (Thinking is only in our mind): Side 6 is possibly the one side upon which all the other five sides are constructed.  It is the base of the box.

This thinking (belief) says that thinking takes place only inside our brains, or minds. 

“Je pense, donc je suis - I think therefore I am,” suggested René Descartes almost five hundred years ago.  The thinking he alluded to was entirely of an intellectual kind.  We have been constrained by this “thought” ever since.

Yet western science has recently discovered that our heart also contains neurons.  In 1991 Dr Andrew Armour (University of Montreal) published a ground-breaking monograph that described neurons and a sophisticated nervous system that he called the heart brain.1 

Since then, similar neurons have been discovered in the gut that Science magazine has described as “practically a brain unto itself.”

Of course, as we have now come to suspect, non-western cultures have always known this.  The Pali word citta is best translated as heart-mind.  There is no distinction.

Sadly, our western-styled culture has not only ignored this, but it has also actively dismissed thinking that is not of the brain.  Intuition, instinct, parapsychology, empathy, imagination, inner radar, and other thinking associated with the heart and gut have been considered non-thought and so disdained and rejected.  Much to our peril.

Side 6 needs to be firmly done away with.

There are no doubt other “…boundary conditions of our thinking” that exist.  No matter whether there are six or sixty, we must break through our current constraints.

That means not simply continuing with using the same thinking even if we get different results.  It means re-thinking our whole thinking processes and genuinely thinking outside the box.

Notes:

1. J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D., Neurocardiology: Anatomical and Functional Principles, University of Montreal, 1991.

2. Emily Underwood, Your gut is directly connected to your brain, by a newly discovered neuron circuit, Science, 20 September 2018. (accessed 8 December 2020)

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Thinking Outside The Box (Part 1)

This blog has often lamented our constrained thinking and the need for different ways of thinking about the state of the world.  Albert Einstein is often quoted:

“We can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.”

So, what sort of thinking do we need?  Many suggest that we could do with “thinking outside the box.”  The Internet is awash with how to be more creative in our thinking, or how to use lateral thinking, or how to discover new ways to do something. 

I found little reference, if indeed any, to what the box is.  What is this box that we are exhorted to think outside of?  What is it constructed of?  What constraints to thinking does our cultural upbringing and education burden us with?  In fact, Einstein (who was quoted earlier) also noted that “We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking.”

Let us think of a box – just a very simple one.  It has six sides.  To think outside those six sides requires breaking through one or more of those sides, or perhaps removing a side or two completely.  Here is a way to think of each of those six sides as representing six Einsteinian boundary conditions (or constraints) to our western-styled thinking system. 

This blog piece will briefly explore three of those sides (constraints.)  The other three will be explored in Part 2.

Side 1 (Materialism):  This side of the box is the side that tells us the world is material.  There is no reality beyond the material.  Matter is the fundamental foundation of all of nature.

This constraint implies that everything can be explained by the material interactions between matter.  Even consciousness is viewed this way, as simply being the outcome of complex interactions between neurons.  And neurons themselves?  Well, of course, they are simply nerve cells (matter) that receive input from our environment and transmit messages to our muscles.

Materialism as a philosophical construct began in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE in ancient Indian philosophy and amongst the Greek Atomists.  In more modern times Thomas Hobbes (16th-17th centuries) set about constructing his social and political system around a mechanistic approach to life.  In his view humanity and society were simply interacting parts – much like the parts of a giant machine.  It is Hobbes who consigned humanity to a life that is solitary, poor, nastybrutish, and short.”

Marx and Engels took this material approach to the state of humanity to postulate their historical materialism.  And we know where that lead.  Capitalism, it must be said, is founded on the same materialism, only it set off on a different path to that of socialism.  Both, however, have constrained our thinking within a materialist and mechanical framework for most of the past three hundred or more years.

In many ways our thinking is still constrained by this Hobbesian idea.

Materialism leads to a mechanistic view of life, the Universe, and everything.  Then, trapped by that view, technological fixes become the default solution to any and all problems.  Yet, in many ways, our reliance on techno-fixes has been a major source for many of the problems we face.  We remain thinking inside this particular side of the box.

Fortunately, a shift is beginning.  Quantum physics was perhaps the first of the “sciences” to push against this side of the box.  Erwin Schrödinger, working in the first half of the 20th century noted that “…consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms.”  His contemporary, Werner Heisenberg, took issue with the very fundamental material world, when he stated simply, “Atoms are not things.”

Side 1 of the box must not constrain our thinking.

Side 2 (Objectivity):  Objectivity tells us that truth can be independently arrived at, without the influence of our own selves.  We can observe without influencing what is observed.  Our emotions, perceptions, intuitions, and other internal biases have no bearing on whatever it is that we are observing.  We can be completely objective.  Or, so the boundary condition tells us.

The Scientific method is grounded on the idea of objectivity.  Science tells us that we can undertake experiments, observe the outcome, and make conclusions from that, all the while remaining detached, independent, and objective.  Whilst the scientific method has much to offer and has allowed us to better understand aspects of nature, objectivity is beginning to be shown as a deception.

In the social world it is possible to notice this lack of objectivity.  Imagine you are walking down the street and someone approaches you with a clipboard and asks you some questions.  How do you answer?  With consideration, thoughtfulness, from a position of what is expected of you?  Now, imagine you are meeting friends in your favourite café a few minutes later and you relate this interaction.  How do you now answer those same questions?  Differently?  More honestly, dismissively?  It depends upon who is observing us, doesn’t it?

Side 2 of the box needs to be broken through.

Side 3 (Linearity):  Effect always follows cause.  A causes B which then causes C.  C cannot possibly cause A.  Linearity is exactly as it sounds: a straight line from point A to point B. 

The Enlightenment of Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries entrenched linear cause and effect ideas.  The logical system this approach enabled suggested that the world was subject to a very stable order; an order that could be identified and then manipulated.

However, many cultures have known for centuries that things are not that simple.  Buddhism, for example, describes a dependent arising (or dependent origination) whereby all phenomena are in continual state of continuous and inter-dependent interaction.  This dependent arising means it is almost impossible to tell which phenomenon is causing another phenomenon to emerge.  It is also impossible to attribute causality to any one particular phenomenon.

Within western science we are beginning to see this mutuality become more readily understood via theories such as Complexity Theory, Chaos Theory, and Emergence.  The straight (linear) lines of the box are being questioned.

Side 3 of the box is crumbling.

Part 2 of this blog-piece (next week) will explore the other three sides of the box.  1. Separation, 2. Control and 3. Mind as the sole source of thinking.