The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 22 December 2023

Humanity Is All We Have Left

We live in a time of crisis, uncertainty, and turmoil. Our time has been given a number of terminologies – poly-crisis, meta-crisis, environmental and social collapse, a predicament.1 A number of titles for our epoch have been suggested – the Great Turning, the Great Simplification, and the Anthropocene. The last of these (Anthropocene) was officially approved as a division of geologic time by the International Union of Geological Sciences in July 2022.2

Although nothing is ever definitive, many of the measures of planetary well-being are pointing to collapse of the world as we know it. Business As Usual cannot and will not continue.

Furthermore, our attempts to solve our way out of this are not working. More often than not our technological efforts at doing so only exacerbate the situation or shift the issue of concern from one part of the planetary system to another.

So, how do we, both individually and collectively, respond and cope with this? Do we just give up? Do we stop responding?

No! We still have our humanity.

Humanity – the quality of being humane. We still retain the virtues and values of compassion, benevolence, kindness, altruism, love that go towards defining us as human beings.

Yes, certainly, within human beings there also exist traits that go against these virtues. It does not take much to see hatred, division, violence, narcissism, and greed in the world.

Seeing these examples of ill-will is why we must work to retain our humanity (as defined above.)

Recognising, seeking, and holding onto our humanity has been a universal quest for millennia. The Chinese virtue of ren was important in the Confucian philosophy two and a half thousand years ago. Ren can be translated as co-humanity (thus emphasising the collective nature of the term) but let us consider how Confucius himself defined it.

‘Wishing to be established oneself, (one) seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged oneself, (one) seeks also to enlarge others.’  

Confucius also spoke of seeking ren. ‘Ren is not far off, (the one) who seeks it has already found it.’

Clearly, Confucius understands that there is no distinction between the ends (humanity – ren) and the means (humanity – ren.)

We become humane by being humane.

Over the centuries many teachers, philosophers, spiritual leaders, and others have also written and spoken about humane virtues. Most of us can identify some of these: Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama for example.

More recently the field of psychology has begun to inquire into virtues and values and has found – unsurprisingly – that there is a quantifiably greater psychological and subjective well-being in individuals who place the values associated with humanity at the forefront of their being.

Furthermore, our humanity does not stop with humans. Our humanity extends to all creatures, and outward to encompass the planet as a whole. Humanity in this sense is not anthropocentric.

The epoch we are presently in is a dire one for Homo sapiens. We may not get through it. Thus far, our human facilities of innovation, mechanical enterprise, problem-solving, and technology have not prevented us arriving at this time, into this mess. Nor, will these facilities enable us to get out of the mess, or even through it.

What is most likely to permit us to stumble our way through this predicament is our humanity.

Accordingly, our humanity is all we have left. Indeed, it may be all we have ever had.


1. Technically these terms are not quite the same. Tom Murphy (professor of physics at the University of California) describes the difference between poly and meta-crisis. All the identified problems that constitute the “poly” stem from a single “meta.” The attitude of separateness from the community of life, the sense of superiority over other species, and self-praise over artificial accomplishment is what allowed the ugly profusion of poly problems.’ Tom Murphy, A Story of Mice (and Men,) 19 December 2023, in Do The Math.

The exact beginning of the Anthropocene is unclear, with experts suggesting anything from the start of the Agricultural Revolution (around 12,000 years ago) right up to 1960. However, it should be remembered that the Anthropocene is viewed in geological time scales, not human ones.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

That Explains It All, Then

Would you like to have it all explained to you in a single word?

Well, here it is – monocausotaxophilia. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? What does it mean?

Mono – single, alone. Causo – cause, reason. Taxo – order, arrangement. Philia – love of, love for.

Monocausotaxophilia – the love of a single cause that explains everything.

It is a made-up word, which has recently begun to make a name for itself. The German psychologist and neuroscientist, Ernst Pöppel, coined the word as a joke. Some writers have since referred to the word, and some have misattributed it to the philosopher Karl Popper.

It is also a mix of Greek and Latin origin. The three terms mono, taxo, and philia are Greek. The odd one out, causo, is of Latin origin. If we were to be consistent and require all parts of the word to be Greek, then the word should perhaps be: monoaitiataxophilia. But with a word this long and of whimsical derivation, who cares about consistency?

Notwithstanding the above though, the word is worth considering.

Perhaps in his practice as a psychologist, Ernst Pöppel noticed a propensity for his patients to want to attribute a single cause to their problems and concerns. Without a term to describe his observation he invented this one.

The wish for a single cause that explains problems goes beyond the psychologist’s couch though. Collectively we seem to want to do the same. We want to find a single cause of our collective problems. Because, if we can do that, then we can firstly, attach blame, and secondly, we can attempt to solve the problem.

With few exceptions, much social and environmental action falls into the trap of monocausotaxophilia. A few examples may help.

The most obvious one is the climate. The biosphere is warming and that promotes climate disruption. Why? There are numerous single cause explanations. Some say it is capitalism. Some cite the Industrial Revolution. More specifically, many point the finger at oil companies. Or billionaires. Political leaders come in for a fair share of blame.

More nebulous terms such as consumerism, population, or technology are sometimes posited as the single reason for climate chaos.

All these reasons influence and contribute to climate chaos. No single one of them is the single reason. No single one is even the predominant one.

In reality, our planet is a highly inter-connected, mutually influencing, co-evolving, and co-emergent system. It is complex. It is dynamic. It is never the same. It is diverse. It is responsive. It just is!

Sadly, our monocausotaxophilia penchant has us desiring a single cause label. Once defined, that single cause can then be fixed. It can be solved. The cause can be isolated, removed, or expelled. At least we think (and hope) it can.

Yet, has anyone noticed that the more we try to fix a single cause the more problems we create? What was complex before we tried to fix it, becomes even more so after the fix (which generally is no fix at all.) All we end up doing is add further complexity to the system, thus creating more and more feedback loops. Doing so tends to destabilise a system. It becomes chaotic. And, isn’t that exactly what we are witnessing in the early part of the 21st century? A highly chaotic ecosphere, biosphere, and social world.

Furthermore, it may well be that our desire for a single cause that explains everything is an added factor contributing to the breakdown and collapse of our known world. A focus on a single cause blinds us to the side-effects that arise from fixing that single cause. More often than not a “solution” applied to a single cause can either; exacerbate the problem we are trying to fix, or damaging consequences will appear in another part of the system (frequently out of our sight, and therefore out of mind.)

Monocausotaxophilia makes us believe that there are problems that can be solved. The reality is a lot different. We are not living with problems, not even complex problems. We are living with and through a predicament.

A predicament does not lend itself to a single cause explaining it. A predicament does not lend itself to solutions. A predicament only has outcomes. The outcomes of a predicament are beyond the control of any of the players inside the predicament. The outcomes of a predicament are not even predictable. We simply do not know what will emerge on the other side of a predicament.

One thing we do know for sure though; monocausotaxophilia is unhelpful and of no use to us.

Thursday 7 December 2023

Glad To Be Here

During a conversation with the Buddhist scholar and professor of comparative religion, David Loy, Joanna Macy1 commented that, ‘If you want to do something positive for the world, you have to be glad to be here.’

In a world in which so many things are going wrong, it may be tempting to react with anger or despair. In contrast to these reactions Joanna Macy’s observation is an astute and radical one.

Many in the environmental and social justice movements act from a place of anger, born perhaps of frustration at a lack of political will. Acting from such a place may seem to be an obvious response as it appears to place the blame for the mess we are in where it belongs – at the top of the political, corporate, and industrial hierarchies.

However, for Macy, this is a mistaken starting point.

For Macy the better, more grounded, place from which to begin is in gratitude. Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, recognises a similar starting point. He succinctly notes that ‘People protect what they love.’

Gratitude in this sense is more than a sensual delight resulting in a sense of gratefulness. We may feel grateful when we watch a sunset or smell a rose. Although that sense may linger for a few hours, maybe even for the rest of the day, the sense of gratefulness brought about through sensory experience can fade and disappear.

Gratitude, however, is a continuing, ever present, state of mind. For Macy, and others, this is critical, as it helps ground us, and allow us to find balance in our lives and in how we see and act in the world.

Thus grounded, Macy asserts that it is possible to honour the pain for the world, without crumbling into despair, confusion, or apathy. A grounding in gratitude also enables us to honour that pain for the world (some refer to this as crying the tears of the world) without descending into anger, finger-pointing, name-calling, and (all too often) violence.

Only once we are grounded in gratitude and able to see the tears of the world are we able to act in a positive way.

It is important to note that Macy talks about doing something positive – she does not add the word change. She is well aware that although we may act in a positive manner, there is no guarantee that our actions will make a positive change. Which brings us back to gratitude and being glad to be here.

With gratitude, it is possible to remain equanimous, even amid seeming futility, and the possibility of collapse.

I am glad to be here. I wish for you to be so as well.


1. Joanna Macy (now in her mid-90s) is a long-time writer, activist, and creative thinker offering her insight to the pain and despair of the world. She has written numerous books and guided dozens of workshops helping people to find ways of being and responding in the world.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Three Harmful Metaphors the Scientific Revolution Bequeathed Us

Religious and philosophical conceptions of how humanity interacted with nature very likely influenced the perceptions of most European people for almost 2,000 years from the 5th century BCE onward. Then, in the 16th and 17th centuries CE powerful and compelling new discoveries and insights loosened humanity’s connection with nature irredeemably. The Scientific Revolution served to firmly infuse three long-lasting metaphors within human consciousness:

  1. Nature as a machine,
  2. Nature to be tamed and conquered,
  3. Homo sapiens exceptionalism.

In 1605 the German astronomer and mathematician, Johannes Kepler, wrote to a friend stating that his aim was to show that the ‘celestial machine (can be) likened to clockwork.’ The implication is obvious. There is no life, no animation, no essence, in a machine that runs like clockwork. Robert Boyle, the Irish chemist and physicist, took up this refrain later that century stating that, ‘The world is like a rare clock.’1

By characterising nature as a machine, the early pioneers of the Scientific Revolution stripped away any mystery, wonder and vitality from nature. The door was opened to enable people to tinker (as might a clockmaker) with nature.

Moreso, the machine characterisation led inevitably to the second metaphor – that nature was to be tamed and conquered. For, if nature was nothing but a machine, then any relic of a wildness trait had to be purged.

For at least one of the major scientists of the time – Francis Bacon – his imagery was violent and contained disturbing sexual innuendo. Bacon genderised nature as female, but not in the wholesome manner of earlier personifications. The scientific method for him was to discover ‘the secrets still locked in (her) bosom… (so that) she can be forced out of her natural state and squeezed and molded.’

Bacon was vehement in his desire to conquer nature. He exhorted his fellow scientists, and indeed humanity generally, to ‘storm and occupy her castles and strongholds and extend the bounds of the human empire.’

Descartes was enamoured by Bacon’s crusade and asserted that science could ‘render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature.’ Bacon and Descartes were not the only ones to promote the metaphor of conquest and domination; others wrote of ‘commanding her’ and putting it (nature) on the rack.’

It is little wonder then, with our westernised exaltation of the Scientific Revolution, that nature today continues to be exploited, dominated, and treated with disdain.

The third metaphor – human exceptionalism – is not a metaphor that has its origins in the Scientific Revolution; however, it does find a novel expression in the scientific method.

Human exceptionalism – the notion that humans are different from, and superior to, all other life forms – can be found in early scriptural writings and monotheism. The human right to dominion over all other beings goes back to the Biblical story of creation. What science offered the notion of human exceptionalism came as a result of discoveries in evolution. The Theory of Evolution arose not during the classic period of the Scientific Revolution (the 16th and 17th centuries CE) but during the 19th century CE. It did however, owe its instigation to the scientific method developed during the Scientific Revolution. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (published in 1859) was promoted by the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel as the tree of life in his 1879 publication The Evolution of Man. Haeckel’s depiction of evolution as a tree placed humankind at the apex of the tree, suggesting that humanity was the inevitable and only possible outcome for evolution. This depiction still has favour today, with humanity’s superiority being at least tacitly assumed.

Thus, although the Theory of Evolution dislodged creationism as the process by which life on Earth has been formed, it did not (until very recently) dislocate humanity from our place of primacy in the scheme of things.

Human exceptionalism has come to be described today as anthropocentrism and is viewed by many as the major obstacle to a more environmentally friendly attitude towards the Earth. Indeed, many environmental thinkers and activists have suggested that we are in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene.2 The Anthropocene describes the epoch in which human activity significantly impacts the geology and ecosystems of the planet.

Although we do not go about our daily lives thinking of the world as a machine, or that we must conquer nature, and assert our place of superiority, these three metaphors continue to influence our behaviour and beliefs at a subconscious level, both individually and collectively.

To that end, they are threatening and harmful.


1. All citations in this section from Jeremy Lent, The Patterning Instinct, Prometheus Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2017.

2. In July 2022 the International Union of Geological Sciences officially approved the term.

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.