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.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Respect Me, I'm An Elder

Sometimes when I find myself in a group of men of similar age to my own (I am in my late 60s) I hear a bemoaning of “the youth of today.”

It begins with a general observation of how untidy, messy, lazy, and/or rude, young people are. Eventually, the detractor is likely to conclude with, “They don’t respect their elders.”

That is a telling phrase, isn’t it? Don’t respect their elders. It is actually code for Young people don’t respect me.

There it is – me. Me! The cry of the ego, or at least, the cry of an immature ego.

There are at least two mis-applied opinions within the cry of they don’t respect their elders.

The first is that there is nothing new under the sun, as the Ecclesiastical author tells us. In a speech to the House of Commons almost 170 years ago, a member intoned: “…the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.”1

The history of older generations blaming young people is centuries old. As far back as the 8th century BC (that’s 2,800 years ago,) Hesiod was complaining that “When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint".2

We could turn the phrase around and suggest that the older generation of today continue to blame and criticise young people.

The second misappropriation is perhaps more concerning. The misidentification with older age as being synonymous with elderhood is a common one.3 There is nothing to suggest that simply by attaining an age recognised (and understood) as old can one be considered an elder.

One of the attributes often associated with elderhood is that of wisdom. Yet, as Stephen Jenkinson disdainfully notes,

“The proliferation of old people has not meant the proliferation of elders… The probable reason is this: the presence of elders in a culture turns out not to derive from an aging population. We’d be awash in wisdom here if it did.”4

Jenkinson has possibly thought more about, and written more fully, than any other older (and younger for that matter) person within western culture. Rather than outline what he thinks elderhood is, he has attempted to uncover those aspects of our modern-day culture that have been lost, and thereby, have contributed to the loss of the elderhood function. Jenkinson is worth quoting again,

“We have fewer elders than ever before because we are living longer. That’s the thread I am pulling. That’s the poorly kept secret of the age. Something about the suspension of limit and ending compromises the function of elderhood, even the appearance of elderhood, because there is something about limit that conjures elderhood from age.”5

Bill Plotkin too, laments the loss of elderhood within westernised cultures. For Plotkin, a person does not suddenly become an elder upon attaining an older age; rather and elder appears (mostly towards the latter ages of life) because of a life-long journey of ecological, social, spiritual, and soul-centred enquiry and exploration, passing through a number of developmental stages along the way.

Plotkin outlines these developmental stages in several books, and notes that a true elder “creatively occupies their distinctive ecological niche as a life-enhancing gift to their people and to the greater Earth community.”6

Note here that Plotkin is referring to a much broader understanding of elderhood than is our modern-day narrow and incomplete perception. He speaks of an ecological niche and of gifts to the greater Earth community. The wisdom inherent in such niches and gifts can only be acquired from a lifetime of walking a path well clear of the highway of much of modern westernised life: a highway littered with consumerism, environmental exploitation and destruction, violence, racism, sexism, and anthropocentrism.

Fortunately, the role of elderhood, and the recognition of true elders, is not completely lacking in the world. Many indigenous and nature-based societies retain such awareness.

Peter Knutson and David Suzuki compiled a compendium of wisdom teachings from elders of many indigenous cultures throughout the world. In it they cite a University of Calgary lecturer who traces her heritage within the Iroquois Confederacy:

“Native cultures fully recognise that all (older) people have lessons to offer based on their life experiences. But they also realise that only a few have the specialised knowledge of the cosmos that uniquely equips them to provide wise counsel to the community and the world… They are characterised by a deep, abiding humility, a reverence of life and the natural world…The role of elder has traditionally been to point people toward their rituals and growth processes that might help them become more aware of themselves as well as of the natural world and their place within it.”7

When the insights alluded to above are fully appreciated, it should be apparent that the claim towards elderhood simply because of old age cannot be upheld.

It could also be inferred from these references to elderhood that part of the elder function is to respect the role and part of youth. Respect is a two-way street.

“The youth of today do not respect their elders,” is a hollow claim. It is code for “Respect Me, I’m an Elder.” I contend that such a statement is not one a true elder would make. If anything, the statement more than likely indicates that the utterer is not a true elder.


1. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, in speech to House of Commons on 28 February 1843.

2. Hesiod was an ancient Greek poet who lived around the same time as Homer, between about 750 BC and 650 BC.

3. Some readers may suggest that I am quibbling over semantics (the difference between an o at the beginning of older and an e at the beginning of elder.) Perhaps so, yet the difference (sometimes subtle) in words can allow us to tease apart meaning and discover deeper, more significant, insights to arise.

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

5. Ibid. See also his book Die Wise, that he gives a subtle nod to in this quotation.

6. Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation, New World Library, Novato, California, 2021. His other books include: Soulcraft, Nature and the Human Soul, and Wild Mind.

7. Pam Colorado (Wisconsin Oneida of the Iroquois Confederacy) cited in: Peter Knutson & David Suzuki, Wisdom of the Elders, Allen & Unwin, North Sydney, NSW, Australia, 1992

Saturday 19 February 2022

How Will We Die?

How will we die? Collectively, systemically, and culturally I mean; not how will we die individually. Although, the way in which we die individually may foreshadow how we will die collectively.

But first: Collectively? Systemically? Culturally? Surely not. We humans are ingenious are we not? We humans will continue on, will we not? We’re not about to die out – surely not?

Well, indications are strong that we may be on the road to doing so. There has been talk of the Sixth Mass Extinction for some time now. Little do many of us humans realise that we are on that extinction list.

This blogpiece will not traverse the evidence for suggesting we are facing extinction. The possibility has been, briefly, discussed elsewhere on this blogsite.

Rather, this blogpiece accepts the likelihood of extinction, or at least a collapse of our ecological/social/economic/cultural systems. This blogpiece asks the question that arises from that acceptance: Can we face our collective death with dignity and grace?

The seeds of an answer to that question can be found in the ways in which we face our individual deaths in our present (western-styled) culture. And the quick answer to that is: not very well.

We live, by and large, in a death-phobic culture. Our medicalisation of death has conditioned us to want to prolong life, rather than accept the reality of death and thus die with dignity and grace.

In his excellent book about death and dying (Die Wise1), Stephen Jenkinson writes in one poignant passage about More Time. He writes of the assertion that palliative care and the medical system provides us with more time to live. In reality, however, Jenkinson claims that “More Time almost always means more dying.”

Our Way of Life Must Die

Our current (western-styled) lifestyle, and the systems we create to support that lifestyle, are unsustainable, violent, and human-centred. This cannot continue. We have already over-shot the environmental limits. Climate change is but the latest symptom of that overshoot.

Yet, we are still acting as if our lifestyles can continue. Furthermore, any alternative solutions that are being offered are simply attempts to prolong our lifestyles, albeit with supposedly sustainable, green, or socially just technologies.

If, then, we are facing environmental and social collapse, and our present attitudes and behaviours are geared towards either a) denying our coming cultural death, or b) attempting to prolong our lifestyles by various fixes and solutions, then we are not approaching this death in a wise manner.

Can we discover ways to approach our cultural death that are wise? Can we learn to collapse with dignity and grace?

It is a big ask.

Our systems are old and are dying. Vanessa Machado de Oliveira2 refers to modernity as being unable to teach us how to allow it (modernity) to die. She notes that “most people will not voluntarily part with harmful habits of being that are extremely pleasurable.”

She then goes on to explore ways of:

“…acting with compassion to assist systems to die with grace, and to support people in the process of letting go – even when they are holding on for dear life to what has already gone.”

Perhaps the first step is to honestly face our present (cultural) fear of death. Should we learn to accept death as part of life, rather than attempting to make more time to prolong dying?

Maybe then we will be able to face collapse wisely and to act compassionately.


1. Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2015

2. Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, Hospicing Modernity, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2021. (Review forthcoming)

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Truth Of Trees (Part 3)

If trees hold truths, then it would be prudent of us to learn how to listen to them. The writer, Hermann Hesse, observed in his 1920 collection, Wandering: Notes and Sketches, that:

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.”

Listening to trees requires of us a different quality to that with which we usually think of the action of ‘listening.’ Surrounded by trees we must open more than our ears. We listen with all our senses – our internal senses as much as our (five) external senses.

These ‘silent sentinels’ (as trees are sometimes referred to) may sound as if they have nothing to say; if we open our other senses, we may find ourselves in the presence of an astounding eloquence.

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (translated as forest bathing1) helps us to open up our other senses so that we may hear the trees and the forest.

Shinrin-yoku is a deliberate attention to our senses within a forest or bush setting. By bringing our attention to each of our five (external) senses one at a time and focusing upon that sense we can begin to truly ‘hear’ what the trees and the forest have to teach us.

Shinrin-yoku has been much studied and researched, and the benefits to humans has been shown to be efficacious. Some of the benefits that have been shown to ensue from forest bathing include: stress reduction, reduced blood pressure, improvement in immunity, lessening of anxiety, increased feeling of calm, lower pulse rate, and a general sense of ease and wellbeing.

When we engage our internal senses (proprioception, inner body radar, imaginal sense, and heart sense) we can tap into an even stronger sense of communication with trees and the forest.

The rainforest activist John Seed understands this communication to be something more than a communication between humans and trees, but one of self-communication. As he points out in Thinking Like A Mountain2:

“I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking.”

This understanding is a fundamentally deep recognition of our (human) part in the whole web of life. Furthermore, this understanding breaks down the distinction about who is the listener and who is the speaker. With this understanding, listening to the trees becomes listening to myself.

When one enters a forest, or stands in a grove of trees, with this understanding then the ability to truly, deeply, listen becomes clear and apparent.

Listening in such a way the truth of trees is palpable. Trees reveal truth, as much through the linguistic association, as in their very presence.

The truth of trees is available to all of us. All we have to do is listen deeply and intently with all our senses.


1. For anyone interested in finding out more about Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku) these two books are recommended: M. Amos Clifford, Your Guide to Forest Bathing and Yoshifumi Miyazaki, The Japanese Art of Shinrin-Yoku.

2. John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess, Thinking Like A Mountain, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1988.

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Truth of Trees (Part 2)

In Part 1 of Truth of Trees we saw that the word truth and the word tree were closely linked linguistically. Sometimes in our use of everyday English it can be easy to forget where words come from and how they are related to other words.

When such relationships between words get forgotten we tend to also lose an understanding of the inter-relatedness of things. Yet – the relationships are right there in the language, staring us in the face.

So, what truth do trees have to teach us? One truth is that of connection, community, mutual assistance.

For centuries our western-styled thoughts led us to believe that trees competed with one another for access to light, for nutrients, and for space to grow. This way of thinking about trees and forests suited the ideology that says “might is right,” and that we have to compete to get ahead. It suits the ideology of the individual as paramount.

However, over the past few decades, this way of thinking about trees has been shown to be false. Trees do not compete. Trees act in harmony with one another.

A number of forest scientists (notably Suzanne Simard – view this TED talk - in Canada and Peter Wohlleben in Germany) have been investigating, and writing and speaking about, the “hidden life of trees”1 since the 1990s. Underground, trees are connected to one another via mycorrhizal networks of hundreds of fungal threads that enable trees to: share resources, warn one another of danger, and provide nutrients to young trees. Far from competing, trees are actively communing with one another, and providing assistance.

Suzanne Simard identified what she terms the mother trees; the largest trees and the ones with the largest mycorrhizal network. Foresters used to think that removing the largest trees was not only economic but also opened up the forest to younger trees. Simard’s research, however, showed that younger trees were nurtured by these old trees. Removing the elders had deleterious effects upon the health of the forest.

Thus, although each ‘individual’ tree appears to be independent of all the others, unmoving and steadfast; it is, in fact, intimately linked with all others in a community.

Trees then, are the truth-tellers of the famous maxim survival of the fittest. Each individual tree does not survive because it is the fittest (in the sense of tallest or strongest); rather trees survive because they fit with one another. Trees point us towards the truth in Charles Darwin’s concept of fitness. See here for a previous post clarifying the survival of the fittest phrase.

Hence, one of the truths of trees is that of connection. Trees, and everything in and on the earth, are connected. Thomas Berry put it this way: “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” Thomas Berry was undoubtedly someone who communed with trees.

Part 3 of this blogpiece will explore further the concept of “listening” to the trees.


1. Peter Wohlleben (trans. Jane Billinghurst), The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada, 2016.