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 22 November 2023

Cultural Narcosis

The great 20th century Indian philosopher, writer, and speaker, Jiddu Krishnamurti, is alleged to have said, ‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’1 (some references to this quote substitute insane society for sick society.)

The founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Marshall Rosenberg, was even more forthright. Quoted in the book Say What You Mean by Oren Jay Sofer, he states,

“If we use Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to liberate people to be less depressed, to get along better with their family, but do not teach at the same time to use their energy to rapidly transform systems in the world, then I am part of the problem. I am essentially calming people down, making them happier to live in the systems as they are, so I am using NVC as a narcotic.”

Instead of referring only to NVC, Rosenberg could have mentioned techniques and practices such as; counselling, mentorship, mindfulness, various religious practices, psychology, psychotherapy, and many other forms of the helping professions.

As our world tumbles into a mess of inter-enhancing and mutually reinforcing environmental, social, cultural, and personal harms and troubles, the need to steer clear of providing narcotics becomes of ever greater significance.

For in attempting to help someone or heal them, without acknowledging and concurrently addressing these issues and troubles, all we do is help prop up the very roots of how people come to be seeking help and healing in the first place.

By helping, assisting, or guiding someone to adjust to social norms we, unwittingly sometimes, help to return them to a social expectation of what is normal, or usual. And that, in turn, serves to maintain the sick (or insane) society spoken of by Krishnamurti.

There are some within the helping professions who understand the magnitude of Krishnamurti’s counsel. The Canadian physician Gabor Maté is one of these. He has posited four healing principles (based on the letter A) for individuals – Authenticity, Agency, Anger, and Acceptance. These, he notes, are healthy qualities corresponding to human needs.2

However, Gabor Maté recognises Krishnamurti’s counsel and adds two further As that help in the pursuit of social and cultural transformation – Activism and Advocacy. Advocacy, he declares, includes using ‘whatever privilege we may have to amplify the voices to whom society denies a voice.’

With activism and advocacy, we have the means to escape the narcosis of modern society. We must use them to escape the snare we find ourselves in.3


1. Although attributed to Krishnamurti, I have been unable to locate the source, except in a reference in a book by Mark Vonnegut (son of the author Kurt Vonnegut) – The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity, 1975.

2. Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté, The Myth of Normal, Vermillion, London, 2022

3. It is revealing that the word narcosis (a state of numbness, insensibility, or unconsciousness) is related etymologically to the word snare (a trap, net, or noose.)

Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Dreaming Path - Book Review

Another self-development, personal growth book? Well – yes… but wait! This one is different.

The authors of The Dreaming Path1 – Paul Callaghan and Uncle Paul Gordon – offer life changing insights and practices that ‘have been passed on for over 1800 generations.’ Paul Callaghan and Uncle Paul Gordon are First Nations men from the country now known as Australia.

The two of them braid together three strands of knowledge and wisdom that, combined, form a coherent and pragmatic whole.

Paul Callaghan draws on his experience of living through a mental breakdown, which he now acknowledges as a breakthrough. As you read his thoughts and the many exercises he offers, breakthrough is an highly apt description.

Paul also draws on his experience with the mental health system of modern-day Australia. He notes the helpful and healthy aspects of that system that enabled him to breakthrough.

Third, and most significantly (certainly the point of difference from other similar books,) Uncle Paul Gordon shares stories and myths that have been passed down over 60,000+ years of continuous cultural expression and development. Each story he writes has gems of wisdom and practical advice; all told with an intimate connection with land, sky, animals, fish, and birds of this world. We read, for example, of how Crow and Magpie got their black feathers. This story teaches us the need for respect and for listening to ancient wisdom of what the land has to teach.

The concept of Lore (not to be confused with Law) is well known within most indigenous cultures, and Uncle Paul refers to it when he writes,

‘If we don’t look and listen to the land, we create imbalance… we create disharmony. If we don’t look and listen to each other, we create imbalance… we create disharmony. If we don’t look and listen to ourselves, we create imbalance… we create disharmony.’

This happens, he writes, when Lore is forgotten. He finishes by announcing that, ‘There is no time like the present to restore it.’

This book offers simple, no-nonsense, practical wisdom. It is highly readable. The many exercises offered within it are easily undertaken. The combined wisdom of Paul Callaghan, Uncle Paul Gordon, and 1800 generations is offered graciously and honestly.

If you want to change your life for the better, read this book.

If you want to create harmony in your life and those around you, read this book.

If you want to understand 60,000 years of Aboriginal culture, read this book.

Towards the end of the book Paul Callaghan declares that the journey is more important than the destination. Then, anticipating that some may mock this as New Age gobbledegook, he succinctly states, ‘Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of how cheesy it may sound.’

This is a book of wisdom and practical advice. It is a simple book; therein is its appeal and its great achievement.

Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of how simply it may be written.


1. Paul Callaghan with Uncle Paul Gordon, The Dreaming Path: Indigenous Thinking to Change Your Life, Pantera Press, Neutral Bay, NSW, Australia, 2022.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

Part of painting by John Thiering
(used with permission)
In two days time some nations of the world will celebrate the 105th anniversary of Armistice being the ending of World War 1 in 1918. The nation of my birth (New Zealand) and the country I now live in (Australia) will be two of those.

Dubbed the war to end all wars WW1 was a war that should never have happened – if indeed, any war should ever happen. The phrase came from a series of articles by H G Wells published in London newspapers soon after the war began. The articles were later compiled into a book with the title The War That Will End War.

But, as we sadly know, it didn’t end war. Nor did it end the arrogance and stubbornness of those directing that (and any) war.

When we consider Armistice Day one number comes to mind – the number Eleven. The ceasefire in WW1 took place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

There is a further little known eleven that can be added to those elevens. On the last day of the war (11th November 2018) there were around eleven thousand casualties; dead, missing, or injured on all sides.

11,000!! On the last day!

Surely, that is the height of lunacy. Knowing that the war was ending, 11,000 soldiers still suffered, with a couple of them within just one or two minutes of the ceasefire.

How many lives could have been saved (on all sides) had the commanders not been so bullish and arrogant?

By October 1918 German commanders had realised that continuing the war was futile and that they had all but lost the war. Consequently, on 5 October the German government sent a message to President Woodrow Wilson seeking to negotiate terms based on Wilson’s Fourteen Points.1

However, the British, French, and Italian governments declined to accept this offer of truce, nor did they accept all of Wilson’s Fourteen Points.

The war continued on.

With these offers not being sufficient for the Allied Forces, Wilson then demanded that negotiations would not take place unless the Kaiser abdicated. This demand was deemed unacceptable by Erich Ludendorff (chief policy maker for the German military and government.)

The war continued on.

Finally, it was not to be the Allies or Ludendorff who opened the way towards Armistice. It was the German people themselves, and principally the sailors in the German navy.

The German command issued an order on 24 October 1918 designed to engage the British navy in an all-out climactic battle.

German sailors responded with an emphatic No! Revolts took place first in Wilhelmshaven on 29 October and spread to Kiel (opening to the Baltic Sea) on 3 November. The sailors’ example quickly extended all along the coast and to large cities such as Hanover, Frankfurt, and Munich.

The German people had had enough of the war and their Kaiser. The German Revolution had begun. Kaiser Wilhem III abdicated on 9 November.

An Armistice could now be negotiated.

At 5am on the 11th November, a time for a ceasefire was set for 11am.

But still, the war continued on.

The belligerent and obdurate minds of military commanders meant that 11,000 were killed, went missing, or were wounded in the final hours before 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month. The Americans in particular were commanded to press on right up until the 11th hour, resulting in almost one-third of those 11,000 being American personnel.2

Lest We Forget; Best We Learn

Armistice Day is sometimes referred to as Remembrance Day. We often hear the refrain Lest we forget on this day. We read it too on WW1 memorials in many parts of the world.

Knowing what happened in WW1, and in all other wars, the refrain Lest we Forget and simply remembering is insufficient. We need to supplement it with a further three-word refrain.

Best We Learn.


1. President Wilson’s Fourteen Points were 14 statements of principle to underpin peace negotiations. They included German evacuation of Russia, Belgium, France, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro, the establishment of the nation of Poland, freedom for the Austro-Hungarian people, sovereignty for Turkey, a re-adjustment of the border with Italy, a reduction of armaments, and freedom of navigation on seas outside of territorial waters.

2. The commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during WW1, General John Pershing, later had to face a Congressional hearing to explain why there were so many casualties when the hour of the Armistice was known in advance.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

We Are All One, Except When We're Not

I hear the phrase ‘We are all one” often. And, it is true – on one level. We are all Homo sapiens, we are all human beings. We are all of the genus Homo, albeit we are the only species of that genus still existing.1

Our DNA attests to our oneness – any two human beings have at least 99.6% of their DNA in common. However, that other 0.4% difference represents around 12 million molecular base pairs.

Our culture can play a big part in shaping our genetic variation. Even something as apparently simple as dialectical difference can shape our genetic differences. A recent (published June 2023) study out of Vanderbilt University explored these differences. The researchers examined high-density linguistic and genetic data from England, and found that the subtle linguistic markers affected the movement and mating preferences of individuals, ultimately leading to genetic differentiation.2

Yes, we are all one.

Except when we are not.

This is one of the paradoxes of life. We are the same and we are different, at the same time. The paper referred to above suggests that there are cultural differences, and that we are not all (culturally) the same or one.

We are rather like the paradox of light – it is both a wave, and a particle.

With light it is possible to measure its wave-like structure or its particle-like structure, but not both at the same time. So, it is with us humans. We can measure, describe, notice, and acknowledge our similarities. And, we can measure, describe, notice, and acknowledge our differences. Most of us though, have difficulty doing both at the same time.

Sadly, there are many who steadfastly hold to just one of these views.

Holding to the ‘we are all one’ view can lead to a dismissal, even to a condemnation of difference. Usually, such extreme views are held by those who, even if subconsciously, think that oneness is congruent with a same-as-me ideology. When a person, consciously or unconsciously, believes that oneness (read sameness) means that everyone is like them and is subject to the same cultural, historical, political, and judicial imperatives this can lead to racism, misogyny, homophobic and other judgemental formulations.3

On the other hand, too much emphasis on difference can lead to similar unhealthy beliefs. Such an emphasis can get displayed as ethnocentrism, cultural superiority, and ultimately a harmful display of toxic individuality.

Both conceptions need to be held; furthermore, both need to be held lightly.

Comparing Apples with Apples

An analogy may be helpful when trying to understand the sameness and difference paradox.

Consider the apple. Apples are the fruit of the genus Malus, and are the most widely distributed tree fruit in the world. Apples are one genus. We could say, Apples are all one.

But we wouldn’t want to apply that notion to the way in which we eat or bake with apples.

Apples vary widely. There is the Cox’s Orange variety, with its golden-yellow skin and semi-tart taste. The Ambrosia variety is mostly red, sweet and crisp. Gala apples have a distinctive red/yellow striped look to them and are sweet and aromatic. For a very tart variety then Granny Smith suits the bill, and has a bright green skin. A favourite amongst many for eating is the Pink Lady variety with its red/pinkish skin and a sweet, crisp taste.

Apples vary in taste, skin colour, and crispness of flesh. Apples come into season at different times of the year. Expert chefs amongst us know which varieties are best for different dishes – apple pie, apple crumble, stewed apple, or apple sauce.

Yet, apples are apples. Apples are one, except when they are not.

Another Analogy

Think of a forest. It is one forest. Yet, the variety within that forest is almost limitless. What makes up that one forest? Trees, ferns, mushrooms, lichen, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, ground-dwelling animals, tree-hugging animals, butterflies. That is just the species we think of as alive. Within the forest, and making up what is called forest, there are streams, rocks, sticks, stones, dead leaves, waterfalls, knolls, dales, mountains. Well, you get the picture.

A forest can only be a forest because of the variety of life forms and other forms that make it up. It is one, only because it is many.

So, beware the phrase ‘we are all one.’ It may hide an ideological belief of cultural superiority, or at least, a belief that my way of thinking and behaving is the norm.

As the old saying goes: No one size fits all.

We are all one, and we are not. We must acknowledge the former and respect the latter.


1. Other species of the genus Homo include: H. erectus, H. habilis, H. neanderthalensis, H. ergaster, H. naledi, H. denisova and up to perhaps 7 or 8 others.

2. Evolutionary biologists determine that culture shapes genetics within, not just between populations, Vanderbilt University Research News, 29 June 2023, accessed 31 October 2023.

3. Some politicians and political parties use such claims of ‘we are all one’ to spread ideologies of xenophobia and racism.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Indigenous Languages: Vessels Of Well-Being

This blog is being written in the middle of the inaugural NSW Aboriginal Languages Week (22 – 29 October 2023.)

In writing this blog I pay my respects to the Elders past and present and the emerging leaders of the future. I recognise and acknowledge the Gumbaynggirr people upon whose land I reside, who have cared for and been the guardians of the lands, rivers, mountains, and ocean for thousands of generations.

The importance of ancestral language is crucial to the wellbeing of whole cultures, to individuals, and to all aspects of human endeavour. Yet, to European colonisers this was not recognised, with many indigenous languages throughout the world having been outlawed, decimated, and often exterminated. The dominant culture of the country I now live in (Australia,) and that of the land of my birth (Aotearoa/New Zealand,) introduced the English language and made that the official language of each country. As a boy growing up in Aotearoa I recall being told by teachers, family members, and officials, that Māori (the indigenous people, and language, of Aotearoa) was dying out, and that it was pointless learning the language because it would have no relevance in the coming years.

Coincidentally, wherever in the world the colonising powers dismantled the indigenous language the health of the First Nations peoples inevitably suffered. Still, today the health of indigenous peoples, whether in North America, Australia, Aotearoa, or the Pacific Islands, lags well behind that of non-indigenous residents of those same countries.

Language Revitalisation

Beginning in the second half of the 20th century many indigenous languages began to be revitalised. The Welsh example is commonly referenced.

As far back as 1563, the Act of Union under Henry VIII saw Wales governed solely by English law and the use of the Welsh language in courts and other government offices banned. By 1961 only one-in-four Welsh people could converse in the Welsh language, although some pockets of high numbers of speakers did remain.

From 1925 onwards though, a number of events took place that led to todays’ significant revival of the language. The Welsh political party (Plaid Cymru) was founded in 1925 with the promotion of the Welsh language being its primary focus. In 1936 the British government attempted to set up a RAF training camp at Penyberth. The locals were incensed, and the resulting protest became known as Tân yn Llŷn (Fire in Llŷn) after the peninsular on which the camp was to be cited. One of the protesters wrote that the British government intended turning ‘essential homes of Welsh cultureidiom, and literature" into a place for promoting a barbaric method of warfare.’

Three decades later the flooding of the Tryweryn valley to create a reservoir to supply Liverpool created tensions around forced removal of locals and the destruction of the valley. Graffiti proclaiming Cofiwch Dryweryn ('Remember Tryweryn') could be seen in many surrounding locations – always written in the Welsh language. These events, and others, kept alive local aspirations to retain language and culture. In 2011 the Welsh language was granted official status for the first time in four and a half centuries. Notwithstanding this, concerns around its health remain, with possibly less than 20% of the population speaking Welsh.

In the land of my birth, the Māori language was banned and those speaking it at school punished for doing so. However, since the 1970s a revitalisation has taken place, kindled primarily by the establishment of pre-school language nests (Kohanga Reo) in the early 1980s. In 1987 an Act of Parliament established Māori as an official language of the country.

Although the number of people stating that they are able to hold a conversation in Māori remains low, there are many young people who are now growing up bilingual. In 2017 Rotorua (the city in which I was born) became the first city in Aotearoa to declare itself bilingual, so that both Māori and English would be promoted.

In the city in which I now live (Coffs Harbour) the Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School opened its doors (although in reality, a lot of the learning takes place on country rather than indoors) in early 2022. The school is the first (and presently the only) bilingual Aboriginal language school in New South Wales. The vision of the school is to be ‘Strong in: language, culture, purpose, identity, motivation, and education.’

This vision fits neatly into the theme of Aboriginal Language Week – ‘Languages Alive, Culture Thrives.’

When cultures thrive, the well-being of the cultures members also flourish.

Culture and Health Thrives

A recent review of research attests to this statement.1 Although many of the revitalisation efforts world-wide are aimed at language promotion and use, a number of other benefits also accrue, including health benefits. The authors of this study summarised their conclusions by stating that, ‘The published literature supports the hypothesis that active use or learning of an Indigenous language has positive health benefits.’

Two aspects of health that showed exceptional health benefit were those of mental health and suicide prevention. In these two areas, around 80% of research programs showed a positive effect of language revitalisation.

What is worthy of further note in this review is that use of Indigenous language has positive benefit, regardless of proficiency level.

Nature Thrives Too

When Indigenous language comes alive, cultures thrive – and so too does the natural world in which we live.

Indigenous cultures have co-evolved with the animals, plants, rocks, rivers, insects, mountains, and oceans of their place. In that time such cultures have come to intimately connect with those places and to learn their ways. Indigenous languages have spoken of these connections for hundreds of generations. Within the languages there is a wealth of knowledge, recognition, and wisdom about place.

When Indigenous languages get lost or destroyed then the knowledge of the natural relationships also get lost or destroyed.

Additionally, Indigenous languages not only provide knowledge about nature, but also offer us a different way of thinking about nature.

For example, Galina Angarova, a Buryat woman living beside Lake Baikal in south-east Siberia, explains that her language (Bargu-Buryat, a variety of the Mongolian languages) has no word for environment.2 In the Bargu-Buryat language one word has the meaning of state of being (or self) and the environment. Galina describes how this single word ‘signifies a unity and non-separation between a human and their environment.’

Far from being of no value, Indigenous languages are vitally important for individual and community well-being, as well as being essential in the preservation of the planet’s natural biodiversity.


1. Whalen et al., Health effects of Indigenous language use and revitalisation; a realist review, in International Journal for Equity in Health, (2022) 21:169

2. Galina Angarova is the Executive Director of Cultural Survival, an NGO that has been advocating for Indigenous people’s self-determination, culture, and political resilience world-wide since 1972. Listen here to a podcast with Galina speaking of being raised in an intact Indigenous culture and the values she inherited from within that culture.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Pondering Being Alive

"Be the poet of your life."

What is being alive? What does aliveness mean? What is the connection between life and alive?

This blog ponders these questions. Nothing more.

Life can, rather prosaically, be defined as that period between birth and death. Rather humdrum that. Perhaps we should animate it somewhat, so that life becomes an animated corporeal existence. Is that any better?

The English word life comes into the language from the Proto-Germanic word leiban meaning the body, or simply life. That’s rather circular, isn’t it?

What if we dig deeper? The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) antecedent is the word leip which has the meanings of to stick, or adhere. This starts to give life a bit more substance. This now suggest a continuance, and a wish or desire for something (or someone) to remain.

Life then could be said to be a desire to remain in and of the world, and to continue doing so, at least unto death.

If that is life, then what is it to be alive?

Life is a noun, whereas live is a verb. To live, then, is the acts, behaviours, deeds, and manners of something that has life.

Ah, but what of that small prefix – a?

It is only one letter, but it is of profound significance.

In English, the prefix a may denote a variety of meanings. It could mean in, on, or into. It can also act as an intensifier, or to mean of.

A further meaning expands on all these and suggests engaged in.

So, to be alive is more than simply that period of time between birth and death.

To be alive means to be actively engaged in life, and to be fully immersed in the interconnections of all things.

How do we do that?

Friedrich Nietzsche1 has a simple reply: ‘Be the poet of your own life.’

Be the poet. Play with rhythm, rhyme, cadence, and alliteration in your life. Experiment with metaphor, allegory, and legends. Follow and learn from archetypes, symbols, and ancient pathways.

To be a-live though, does not mean that the poem that is your life must have meaning. Being alive is the meaning. As Alan Watts2 noted:

‘The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.’

Simple really. Engage in life.

Come alive!


1. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) was an influential German philosopher. His most well known work is Also Sprach Zarathustra (So Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None) published in four volumes between 1883 and 1885.

2. Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was an English writer, speaker, and philosopher, noted mainly for his popularising of Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu philosophies to Western audiences.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Michael Dowd - Farewell to a Shambhala Warrior

Michael Dowd
This week's blog mourns the death of Michael Dowd, creator of the resource-rich website, who died on 7 October 2023. Michael was a writer, a lecturer, a preacher with the Unitarian Universalist church, and an advocate of eco-theology. He is best known by many around the globe for his extensive body of work related to post-doom.

Michael was surely one of the warriors of the Tibetan story of Shambhala.

This legend tells of how, when the Earth is in danger, the realm of Shambhala emerges. Shambhala is not a place; it exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala Warriors. You cannot identify these warriors by any external appearance. They wear no uniform, and they do not display insignia. The only way to recognise a Shambhala Warrior is by the two weapons (or implements) they wield. (Listen here to the legend retold by Joanna Macy, as it was told to her by a Tibetan monk.)

One of these weapons is compassion. The other is insight into the inter-being of all things.

Michael Dowd had a firm grasp on both these weapons. Just two weeks before his death he gave his final sermon to the Flint, Michigan congregation. Fortunately, for us, this sermon was recorded. It is a sermon in which, as you watch and listen, you notice that he wields both these weapons with highly trained skill.

Appropriately, this sermon is titled ‘Being theCalm in the Storm- no better label could epitomise how Michael lived his life and how he wished for all of us to be able to live in these troubled times. No matter whether you are a theist, an atheist, or a non-theist, this final address by Michael is one for all of us.

When you listen to his interviews with others, or watch his YouTube clips, his grace and wisdom are readily apparent. The range of people he interviewed (all available on his website) is staggering. As a resource and as a link to other people’s work, Michael Dowd’s website is possibly unsurpassed. It is a testament to his dedication, not only to his subject matter, but also to his endeavour to provide the best resources available for anyone wishing to find out more.

Michael Dowd coined the term post-doom, and in doing so opened up the possibility of living with compassion, joy, an appreciation of beauty, and love, even though understanding that the world as we know it has entered the global, and quite possibly final, collapse phase of an unsustainable boom-bust scenario. His website ( contains dozens of interviews with people from all over the world who understand the nature of the predicament we are in, yet who live their lives in a meaningful and joyful manner.

Michael too, understood this very well. It is telling that in his final sermon he offered us three tools for “being the calm in the storm” of these troubled, and disruptive times: 1. Nurture your personal intimacy with life, 2. Honour your and our mortality, and 3. Attend to what matters most.

Michael leaves us with a wealth of resources: interviews, podcasts, book readings, videos, talks, and documentaries. These resources cover everything you ever wanted to know (and a lot more besides) about the state of the world and how best to negotiate it.

Surely, Michael was, and remains, a Shambhala warrior.

Farewell Michael. 

Thursday 5 October 2023

Enough Already!

Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller
In a recent article Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California provoked our thinking by writing, ‘I would say that perhaps we should quit while we’re ahead, but WE are not ahead at all. We should quit before WE get further behind.’1

Provocative words indeed. Tom is writing about how WE (humans) are ‘just a small part of the greater community of life.’ Somehow we have forgotten this, and we do not know how to quit pretending we are not.

Somehow we must have the courage to shout ‘Enough Already!’

The expression Enough Already has its roots in the Yiddish-speaking communities of New York. It is an expression that can usefully be applied to how we live upon the Earth, and how we live with the greater community of life.

Enough and Already

Enough is a compound word deriving from the Old English word ge meaning with or together. It is similar in meaning to the Latin word com.

The second part of the word (nough) originates in Proto-Indo-European words such as nok and nek which connote notions of to reach and to attain.

Putting this together we might define enough as having attained together. Enough suggests arriving at a point of sufficiency where we have attained what it is we sought after.

When we look closely at the word already, we can again discern two parts to it. We know the first part – all. It means everything, completion, fullness, whole, entirety.

The second part, also we know – ready. It denotes done, prepared. Nothing more needs to be executed to make it ready.

Thus, already can be defined as fully done or wholly prepared.

Enough Already!

So, what of the full expression – Enough Already!?

It is impossible to obtain any other meaning from this expression than one that says, ‘to reach the point at which we are completed prepared and there is nothing more that needs to be attained.’

What if we were to fully engage with this notion of Enough Already!?

We might then understand, as Lao Tzu did two and a half thousand years ago, that, ‘He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’

Someone who had a similar understanding to that of Lao Tzu was the American author Joseph Heller – author of the classic 1961 novel Catch 22.

Heller and Vonnegut

When Joseph Heller died, his good friend and fellow author, Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse-Five,) wrote in his obituary of a party that the two of them attended. The party host was a millionaire. As the two of them talked, Vonnegut opined to his friend that the millionaire made more money in one day than Heller’s book (Catch 22) had since it had been published.

Joseph Heller looked at his friend and said, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have.’

Vonnegut naturally asked, ‘What is that?’

To which Heller replied, ‘Enough!’

It is a discerning tale.

Enough Needs, More Wants

This concept of attaining enough applies not just personally, but also socially and culturally. Individually we may be able to recognise when we have enough and our needs are fully satisfied. However, we are constantly bombarded by others who want to persuade and coerce us into wanting more and more. That surely, is the credo of the PR/advertising fraternity.

So, our whole social and cultural value system is designed to never be enough already.

And, never being enough means we are constantly, and continually, exploiting and laying waste the Earth. The exploitation of the Earth goes hand-in-hand with our mistreatment of one another and the systematic corruption that enables this to happen.

We may, as Tom Murphy suggests, already be behind.

We should quit.

We could imitate Joseph Heller and recognise that we have enough.

Joseph Heller grew up in the Yiddish-speaking community of Coney Island in New York. Perhaps that is where he picked up the notion of sufficiency.

We too, like the Yiddish-speaking residents of Coney Island, must shout out, Enough Already!


1. Tom Murphy, Are We Lucky? accessed 5 October 2023.

Friday 29 September 2023

Polls Apart

Recently I saw a poll about a referendum coming up in Australia soon. The referendum will ask Australians to state “Yes” or “No” to an amendment to the Australian Constitution. This blogpiece is not about this referendum. Rather it is about the differing perspectives of older generations versus that of younger people.

The poll I saw indicated that for those aged 18 – 34 years, over 60% of them will vote “yes” in the coming referendum. The percentage of those in the 55+ age group who will vote “yes” was significantly less - below 25%.1

This poll is like many I have looked at in recent years: for example, in many countries, polls asking people about climate change and the state of the world’s environment show a similar gulf between the perceptions and understandings of young people and those of older generations.2

These polls are indicative of older generations making decisions that younger generations will bear the consequences of, even though younger generations wish for different outcomes.

It has long been this way. I recall when I was a member of the young generation that I was often at odds with older generations. Many popular songs during this time bemoaned exactly this point.

But, has it always been this way?

Not many, and very few from within older generations, ask such a question. One who has been courageous enough to ask this question, privately and publicly, is the Canadian social critic, writer, and educator, Stephen Jenkinson.

Jenkinson’s book, Come of Age,3 seeks to delve into the genesis, and ongoing perpetuation, of why it is that in westernised cultures ‘the proliferation of old people has not meant the proliferation of elders.’ He asks this highly important question in the midst of a Time of Trouble. The gulf between young people and older generations is a glaring sign of troubled times.

Furthermore, as this gulf exists, we might ask: whose job is it to mend the rift? Young people? Older generations? Someone else? No-one?

If the burden of responsibility lies anywhere, the answer is probably – Everyone!

Given that older generations have lived much longer than young people, and supposedly have a great deal more experience to draw upon, then it is reasonable to suggest that older generations must take a large share of this responsibility. However, that assertion comes with a large measure of caution.

What experience, we can ask? Crucially, to have simply experienced something does not imply that something has been learned. Moreover, the attainment of wisdom does not necessarily come with advanced chronological age, and an accumulation of experiences.

It is as if older generations (in westernised cultures,) upon reaching “retirement” age have run-off and are playing hooky, neglecting their responsibility not only to younger generations, but also to the soul of the world. This truant behaviour cannot simply be blamed upon any particular individual. It is the cumulative effect of centuries of the individualising and mechanising venture of westernised culture.

Older generations arrive at “retirement” with a culturally ingrained expectation that now is the time for either playtime or (sadly for many) the time of being put out to pasture.4 Truancy for many arises naturally, and uncritically, from such expectations.

If wisdom, and the attendant elderhood function of older generations, is largely lacking in westernised cultures, it is little wonder that young people are not coming to older people for guidance, assistance, or even hints, about how to navigate the troubled times we are in.

Yet, the possibility of true elderhood endures. In westernised cultures the elderhood function has become lost, displaced, or (as some might argue) stolen. Stolen, not only from those who might have become elders, but from young people too.

In the final chapter of his book Stephen Jenkinson focusses our attention upon this. For Jenkinson, elderhood cannot simply be ascribed to someone, nor can it be obtained through a short-term workshop or learning platform.

Jenkinson describes it as a conjuring act. And, as we know, magicians spend years and years mastering their craft. Here is how Jenkinson invokes the elderhood function.

‘The ones who conjure elders are not the ones who are seeking out their own elderhood. The ones who conjure elders are the ones who seek out an elder’s heartbroken willingness to testify for the sake of a better day, who corroborate that sorrow, who are willing to be wrong about older people and their truancy. My plan, such as it is, is that young people begin to awaken to the understanding that it is their search for elders – sometimes grievance-driven, sometimes tried – that conjures elderhood in a troubled time.’5

To answer the earlier question about responsibility then, we can say: young people in their searching have a responsibility, and older people in their willingness to be found have a responsibility.

If young people are to conjure up the elderhood function, then those who would be elders must be courageous enough to come out of retirement, stop revisiting their childhood playtime and begin an honest, respectful, and open dialogue with younger people.

Older generations must stop playing truant.

Then, the poles might not be so far apart.


1. I am purposely not quoting exact percentages. Polling is a statistical method that, based on a sample, provides us with an estimate of the views of the total population. This inevitably means that there are margins of error (formulated as standard deviations) and these in turn can be assigned a confidence level (or degree of confidence.) Hence, I can say say “more than” or “below” with confidence that the true percentage is in that range.

2. For example, an US poll asking whether climate change needed to be addressed now or in the next few years showed an almost 20% gap between the responses of those aged 18 – 29 years and those aged 65+.

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

4. I am indebted to Bill Plotkin for the terms Pasture and Playtime. In his book, Nature and the Human Soul (New World Library, Novato, California, 2008) he laments the time of “retirement” as bringing on, for most older people, one or other of these two possibilities. He contrasts these options with the more eco-centric stage of The Master in the Grove of Elders.

5. Jenkinson, Op cit., p381

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Planning to Not Know

When working in community development or on an environmental or social justice campaign hours can be spent in analysing the situation, planning strategies and tactics, and preparing to undertake various actions. Whole weekends can be spent in workshops, and seemingly endless meetings can be held.

What if such planning meetings, workshops, and strategizing were to be dispensed with? What if, instead, activists spent the same amount of time in silent meditative retreats? What if, instead of looking outward towards the objectives of the campaigns, time was spent looking inward? What if time was spent settling the busy monkey mind that we carry around with us day to day, and enabled our heart-mind (citta1) to make its presence more known?

Such a suggestion may not be as unproductive, or as wasteful of time, as may be imagined.

If there is to be any transformation of the state of the world, then that transformation must be both internal and external. It must be personal, and it must be collective and social. Indeed, a healthy transformation cannot be one without the other. A bird must have both wings to fly.

Yet, a huge proportion of the time spent in campaigns is directed outward. Time is spent analysing who is doing what, and when. Consideration is given to asking who are “our” opponents and who are “our” allies? The mechanics of the situation are defined. Facts, figures, and data are researched and presented.

It is all about what is “out there.”

What if we were to spend time asking what is “in here”? What is our deep heart telling us? On the surface we might be thinking that our heart tells us ‘I am angry (because this or that is happening to our planet, or to this group of people).’

However, our hearts carry much deeper feelings and emotions. Yet, when we get caught up in the externalities of campaigning, we lose access to our deep hearts.

Not Knowing

To open to our deep heart means letting go of what we know and what we think we know. It also means letting go of the craving to control outcomes. Together, this requires foregoing any certainty. It also obliges us to relinquish notions of right and wrong, of good and evil.

Resting in silent, mindful meditation allows the awareness of the inter-beingness of all things to arise. In this state of deep awareness the dualism that we project outward onto the world begins to dissolve. In silence our clinging mind starts to let go of certainty and knowingness.

Gandhi’s Example

In 1930 the Indian Congress Party and the independence movement generally, was in disarray and one of its leaders, Mohandas Gandhi did not know what to do. The esteemed poet Rabindranath Tagore visited Gandhi at his ashram on the Sabarmati River. Tagore asked Gandhi what should be done, and Gandhi answered saying, ‘I do not see any light coming out of the darkness.’2

But Gandhi was not about to give up. However, instead of making plans, Gandhi spent time alone and in silence in his ashram for many weeks. He told fellow ashram members, ‘I’m just waiting. I’m waiting for the call. I know that I will hear the inner voice.’

He did hear that inner voice. The result of Gandhi’s silent waiting is now considered to be one of history’s outstanding examples of nonviolent resistance – the Salt March.3

Gandhi’s example is not an isolated case. Certainly not for those working from within a spiritual tradition. In recent years the practice of vision quests have made an impact upon westernised activists and others seeking a better world. The practice, of course, is well-known within indigenous societies. This practice has yet to become widespread within movements seeking a transformed society. If and when it does so, we may see a radically different approach to social transformation.

Vision quests involve days, sometimes weeks, of solitary and mindful praxis. A participant must let go of preconceived notions of their place in the world, and even of who they are.

When this not-knowing mind-set is invoked a much deeper, and more encompassing, knowing is released.

What if activist movements incorporated these practices within their campaigns more often? What if activists dropped the notions of certainty and control over outcomes?

What if environmental and social justice movements took up a bearing of not-knowing?

Would it work?

I don’t know.


1. Citta is a Pali word often translated as heart-mind. Citta makes no distinction between the mind and the heart, the inter-connection is so great that there is no division.

2. Cited in Donald Rothberg, The Engaged Spiritual Life, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006.

3. The Salt March was a nonviolent march of almost 400 km from Gandhi’s ashram to Dandi (on the west coast of India) where Gandhi made salt (in defiance of the British colonialist “salt laws”). The march took 24 days and helped spur Indians to mass civil disobedience and was instrumental in the eventual dismantling of British colonial rule over India.