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 28 April 2021


One of the most common chants heard during a protest rally is that of, “When do we want it?” with the habitual response of, “Now!”

Certainly, chants and call-response can be energising for rally participants.  Some chants can capture an entire message in a few words.  However, chants can also play on our minds, turning neurons on or off, so that the message is an internal one as much as an external one.

For those of us seeking social justice the response of “Now!” may be disrupting our equanimity.  Now! yells out impatience.  Now! calls out frustration and anger.  Now! shouts out a different message to that of the “power of now.”

The concept of the power of now has been popularised by Eckhart Tolle’s multi-million selling book of that title.1  Tolle’s basic teachings are not new; in fact, they are centuries old.

The basic premise of living in the present moment (“the now” as Tolle refers to it) is to be mindful of our inner and outer worlds.  We experience the outer world through our five “external” senses.

With these five senses we can take notice of our surroundings.  Many of us, however, navigate our daily lives with little awareness of our surroundings.  We get caught up in our thoughts, with most of those thoughts either: remembering what has happened in the past, or planning our future.  We are not present.

Being present also teaches us patience.  The future does not beckon us with a sense of urgency.  We are simply present, and time is something we experience with patience.  

We also sense the outer world via our “inner” senses, such as instinct, intuition, and feelings.  Once again, if we are present, then we allow ourselves the chance to recognise what is going on inside.  We notice our feelings; the sometimes small sensations in our body.

Why is this important?  Or, how is this beneficial?

Eckhart Tolle puts it this way:

“When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”

Okay, so what does this have to do with the call-response rallying chant, “When do we want it?”

If Tolle is correct in suggesting that being present imbues each action with quality, care, and love, then a chant of impatience would seem to be contrary to those values.  And… if those values are not present in the world we wish to see, then surely, we need to re-think our vision.

But it’s just a chant, I hear.

Yes, it is a chant.  Yet, as alluded to above, the message in the chant is one we tell ourselves as much as what we want others to hear.  Neuroscience has been telling us for many years that our internal messages change the way we think.  When we tell ourselves that we are stupid, or a genius, then we become stupid, or a genius.  Messages are powerful.  The ones we tell ourselves perhaps the most powerful of all.  The more we tell ourselves these messages the stronger the neural links that enforce the message and our belief in the message.

The message of “Now!” tells us over and over to be impatient, to remain frustrated and angry when “Now!” is not answered.

We need to find other messages to tell ourselves.  We need to find other ways to express our desires for greater social justice.  We need to switch from a “Now!” mind-set to a Power of Now mind-set.

That calls for patience – a very present-centred attribute.


1. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, originally published by Namaste Publishing, Canada, 1997.

Tuesday 20 April 2021

4 Requirements For Retirement (or Elderhood)

Perhaps one of the pervasive expectations for a “proper” life trajectory of a person living in western-styled cultures is this: to enter the workforce somewhere in the late teens to early/mid-twenties, work for 40 or more years, then retire.

As one who is now of “retirement” age I have received invitations to retirement seminars, read “how to retire” articles, and been exposed to the conventional retirement know-how.  Within all this information and advice, a lot of the “know-how” suggests four requirements for a “good” retirement:

  • Relationships.  Often this is couched in the requirement for a retiree to have a circle of close friends and family.  A life-partner is frequently extolled as beneficial.
  • Activities.  Having hobbies and interests that keep one busy, occupied, and active is suggested.  Activities help to keep one’s body healthy and mind engaged.
  • Health.  Remaining healthy is extolled as being a prime requirement of an enjoyable retirement.
  • Finances sufficient to be able to do what a retiree wants to do.

In much of retirement know-how these four factors are described in terms of individual choices.  Sadly, this individualisation of retirement choices signals the underlying meaning of the word retire: to retreat, to withdraw.

Retirement in western-styled cultures is all too often a retreat and a withdrawal from society.  The coming of retirement age is when one becomes older and of lesser productive use in society.

Non-western cultures, however, tend to view this time of life as one in which one becomes and elder.  In these societies (albeit, ever decreasing due to western-styled globalisation) such and elder is seen as, and looked towards, as a holder of cultural knowledge, as a wisdom-keeper; a productive, active, treasured, member of society.

An elder (I deliberately distinguish from older) in this sense, also requires the same four factors as those outlined above for an older retiree.  However, there are significant differences.

Relationships.  An elder is in relationship with the entire world, the non-human beings as much as the human beings.  An elder understands what the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, terms inter-being.  This way of interpreting relationship means a relationship within which there is no separation.  The relationship is not one of “me here ,other there.”  It is a relationship in which “I am other, other is me.”

Activities for an elder are not simply sources of amusement or a way to utilise time (although these may be an outcome), but of active involvement in the world, active involvement in communities because an elder understands the meaning of service.

Health for an elder means health not only of oneself, but also of communities, cultures, and ecosystems.  This form of health flows directly from the third factor above.  This concept of health understands that I am healthy when society is healthy, society is healthy when the ecosystem is healthy, the ecosystem is healthy when I (and society) are healthy.  There is an intimate connection between personal health and health of the planet.

Finances.  An elder rejects the notion of having sufficient finances to do what one wants to do.  Doing what “one wants” is antithetical to a healthy ecosystem.  Rather, an elder is open and receptive to what wants to be displayed and expressed through the elder.  In one sense, and elder becomes a channel through which the entire world does what it wants to do.  Wealth is necessary for this – but not the wealth of money, shares, or other financial accoutrements.  The wealth an elder requires is the wealth of a considered, and respectful, lifetime of experience.

What do these four requirements mean?

Retirement is not the time to retreat from, or withdraw from, the world.  It is time for one to find one’s place (if one has not already done so) in the world, so that one can give back and be of service to the greater-than-human world.

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Don't Expect Change To Come From Governments

All too frequently those seeking social change point to governments
as either: 1. the problem, or 2. the solution.
  Sometimes both!

We hear statements such as “the government needs to do this,” or “the government needs to stop doing that,” or “if only the conservatives/liberals/tories/socialists/democrats/greens were in power.”

Power!  Ah, that slippery, contestable agency to which political candidates and parties aspire.  Ursula Le Guin1 claimed that government is “the legal use of power to maintain and extend power.” (my emphasis, see later)

Yet, government is a socially constructed institution that does not exist in a vacuum.  The great theorist and writer on nonviolent action, Gene Sharp, comments in his seminal trilogy that:

“An error frequently made by students of politics is to view political decisions, events, and problems in isolation from the society in which they exist.”2

Sharp’s understanding turns everything on its head.  Metaphorically, we could imagine government as being the few oranges at the top of a pyramid of oranges.  If one of those oranges at the top is removed, then the pyramid remains, and the orange is easily replaced.  However (as many skits and cartoons have shown,) if we take an orange from near the bottom of the pyramid, the whole pyramid collapses.

Like the orange pyramid, governments ultimately remain (and have their decisions accepted) because the base of the pyramid is not shifted.

The crunch is that it does not shift because many at the base of the pyramid continue to expect change to come from the top.  It never has, it still doesn’t, and it never will.

Where, then, does change come from?  Let us begin by looking at the base of the pyramid.  This base is constructed from our cultural beliefs, norms, behaviours, ideas, concepts, and aspirations.  When we fully recognise the implications of this then we also begin to understand that we can also wield power – collectively.

Furthermore, because all this is a system then it is possible to intervene to change it.

Leveraging systems

Donella Meadows, one of the pioneers of systems thinking, gave a lot of thought into what she called the “leverage points” in a system.  Following her untimely death in 2001, a book she had been working on was edited and released in 2008.3  In it she listed twelve leverage points in an ascending order of effectiveness.

The least effective of Meadows’ leverage points she refers to as the “numbers.”  In the social/political system discussed here these are the individual MPs and political parties.

The next leverage point she referred to as the “buffers.”  Here, we can think of these as the “checks and balances” of the system, including the “legal” use of power referred to by Ursula Le Guin (previously quoted.)

At the other end of the scale (the most effective) Meadows writes of the “paradigms” of a system.  Paradigms are the mind-sets from which an entire system arises, including our collective-cultural belief systems.

From this systems thinking approach some implications arise:

  • Our system of government rests upon a belief that power resides in and is maintained by governments.
  • By accepting that belief we abdicate our personal and collective abilities to effect change.
  • Every time we couch a problem/issue as one of politics and/or government (whether as a social change movement or simply in our everyday conversations) we focus on symptoms and neglect to diagnose or recognise underlying causes.
  • By expecting (and advocating for) change to come from governments we waste emotional energy, often leading to any or all of: frustration, despair, anger, disenchantment, or simply dissociation.
  • Furthermore, often when we “fight” an issue at a governmental level we end up supporting and giving legitimacy to the very system which is at fault.

We can change our mind-set.  We can intervene in the system at a paradigmatic level.

We should expect more of ourselves, individually and collectively.  We can expect more.


1. Ursula K Le Guin (1929-2018) is an American science fiction writer best known for her Earthsea fantasy series and the novels Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

2. Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, Porter Sargent Publishers, Boston, 1973.

3. Donella Meadows (ed. Diane Wright), Thinking In Systems, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2008.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

It's In The Language

All over the world original inhabitants have been colonised, invaded, and decimated.  Most of the colonisers originated in Europe, especially the nations of Western Europe.  As a result, much of the world has been “westernised.”  “Europeanised” might be another term.

In so doing the colonisers stole land, raped, murdered, and pillaged.  They also destroyed many of the cultural elements of those they colonised, including indigenous languages.

One of the first actions that colonised peoples have taken when reclaiming their cultural identity is to reclaim, learn and spread the use of their languages.  For many colonised people language is a sacred artifact; language is at the core of who they are as people.  Language both reflects and helps to shape the way in which peoples see the world.  Language is the mechanism by which identity is formed and the medium for explaining the world and society’s place in that world.

Former Australian Senator and member of the Gumbaynggirr people, Aden Ridgeway, has expressed this connection between language, identity, and land well.  He says,

Aboriginal language goes to the heart and soul of one’s identity and gives connection to family, country and instils a sense of enormous pride and provides the strength from which to see the world beyond the fences of your own community - then everything seems possible.”

Language could quite simply be the bedrock upon which the rest of a culture is built.

Many indigenous languages and other languages decimated by colonising powers are now being re-kindled and re-established, after having been almost extinguished.  Welsh, for example, was the main language used in Wales in 1800.  But within a century only about half those living in Wales spoke Welsh.  The language was actively discouraged through measures such as the Welsh Not: whereby children heard speaking Welsh at schools were flogged for using the language.  The language is now undergoing a revival.

In Aotearoa (New Zealand) the Māori language had, like Welsh, been actively discouraged in schools, with Māori children being disciplined for using the language.  The 1980s were a pivotal decade for the language, with the establishment of Māori language nests for pre-school children (later extending to primary, secondary, and tertiary level).  Māori language became an official language of the country in 1987.

Language revitalisation has been pivotal in enabling cultures to survive and thrive. 

What about English?

What if English were to go through a similar re-vitalisation, re-kindling, re-learning?  You might ask: why?  English is well established in the world; 1.35 billion people speak English, and it is the first language of 360 million people.  Surely it does not need reviving!

All languages change and meanings of words get transformed.  Yet, in that process, something other than the old meanings get lost.  Meaning itself often gets lost.  An understanding of the world and our place in it gets lost.  Once lost, those meanings and understandings get forgotten.

Stephen Jenkinson notes that discarded and forgotten meanings of words often hold “…memories (that) testify to inconvenient histories and times that aren’t the authorised version of everything that we learned in school.  They bear inefficient mysteries, mysteries that won’t give in.  They betray the allegations that stand in for tradition.”1

Maybe English has transformed the meanings of words so much that those of us descended from British colonisers (its first speakers) have lost contact also with the mysteries of the world.  Perhaps our own language, and what we have done to it, is partly why we are unable to come to terms with the way in which we destroy our environment and misunderstand what it really means to live a healthy and fulfilling life on this planet.

Consider a few examples:

·   The words tree and truth derive from the same etymological root.

·   The words human and humus (soil, earth) derive from the same etymological root.

How would our association with Mother Earth and with nature change were we to fully recognise the significance of these associations.  Further:

·  The word develop, far from meaning to “add on, to increase,” derives from the Old French word desveloper meaning to unwrap, unfurl, unveil.  Think of it as de- envelope.

·  The word educate, far from meaning to stuff full of knowledge, derives from two Latin words, ex meaning out, away, and ducere meaning to lead.  Hence, etymologically, educate means to lead out, to draw out.

What would our civilisation look like if we understood develop to be more strongly associated with our inward journey rather than an outward manifestation of continued growth?  What would our education system look like if we understood the word educate to be associated with enabling what is innate to emerge? 

What would our worldview be if we re-discovered the mysteries contained in our language?  It’s all there – hiding in plain sight within the language itself.

1. Stephen Jenkinson, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2018.