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.