I know a person. You don’t know him. Who spends 100% of our time together trying to prove that he is better than I am, or that he is right and I am wrong. Or anything along those lines, and of course it has nothing to do with me. He does this with everyone. The one primary goal of his life is to prove that he is OK.
And yet, he will never succeed, because he is wrong. He is not better than I am; therefore his is one of those impossible life goals, and it seems to me that he has wasted his whole life as a result of having an impossible goal that is of no value. He is wrong; and if I responded as our American culture says I should – as a co-dependant partner in our relationship – if I respond by trying prove that I am better than he is, it’s very tempting because I know how to do that — but I would also be wrong. Because, most basically, there are no dichotomys in the overall reality of Life; therefore there are no absolute rights and wrongs or betters and worses. It’s all about balancing multiple parameters.
I looked up “parameter” in the dictionary and their definition is much more confusing than mine. Here’s mine, expressed as an example. If there are ten different interacting qualities or traits that are required for – let’s say for your car to function properly – my dictionary would say ten limiting factors, but I would say “balancing the ten parameters” is required so that your car will function properly. And let’s say when your car runs beautifully, that is an emergent property – the functionality of that car – it’s ability to function — is the emergent property that arises or is generated by all those parameters working together (each one functioning properly and perfectly balanced with all the other nine). An emergent property is a characteristic that results (emerges) when the “fortunate combination” of parameters (conditions, processes, things) come together to make the “emergent property” possible.
Or you could say that an emergent property is a newly arising system that never before existed because never before has this combination of parameters been able to work together in just this way.
Making an automobile run beautifully is not just a mathematical balance or overcoming a set of limits. It’s that yes, but also an art and a skill, and a very rare event, when a mechanic succeeds in balancing the (many more than) ten parameters so that your car runs beautifully.
In Buddhism, the above description might be an example of what is meant by “dependent origin” of a functional car. It’s amazingly obvious and uncomplicated, in spite of all the big words. Nothing happens by itself; everything is connected with other things either by processes or by nuts and bolts; and everyone already knows that, so this whole idea is only a matter of learning the words so we can talk about it.
Joseph Campbell uses the example of a marriage. If both partners are willing to give TO THE MARRIAGE (as opposed to “giving in” to each other, if they each work hard to give to their support to the new emerging entity) recognizing that the marriage is a different, emergent biological reality, different from any other including the partners, then that is what the marriage will become. But the marriage will not become just what either expected because emergence unfortunately can’t be preplanned. It depends too heavily on the environment and we never know what that might come to be. The emergent biological reality – the marriage or the culture or the political entity — grows and “succeeds” by experimenting with all its parameters, within the changing environment, and then only if both partners (or in the case of saving human kind, the majority of the partners) are willing to work for THAT goal rather than the goal of trying to prove who is better, stronger, dominant or more to be admired than the other.
I spent the first half of my life learning all the dominance games anyone could throw at me, including all those definitions and spellings, and the second half of my life learning how to not participate in dominance games (but the definitions and spellings still come in handy).
This is why my clubhouse “action” in Bryan “failed.” People came. Most had other commitments, but we could have created what I think of as a corposystem charitable monster. But that would be the same monster “everyone else” is working for. The only difference would be that it would be serving my ego rather than theirs, and monsters are very uncomfortable to sustain and they create a lot of suffering. My goal was and is to help reduce the suffering of all sentient beings by helping to nourish a sustainable, reasonably comfortable Life, overall Life, preferably with humans in it, on this earth.
It irritates me when people want to use me to pursue their goals that are harmful to my own goal. So whenever I am with this person (I’m still talking about the one who never for a minute stops trying to prove that he is better than I am) I always want to ask why does he believe I would like him better if he ever could convince me that I am worse than he is. Or why he thinks I don’t like him now. But I have never asked him because we don’t know each other well enough – and we probably never will because he cannot and would not “hear” what I am trying to say. Even if I said it “nicely.” (ref nice speak)
And that is why, when people came to me at the clubhouse wanting me to help them “succeed” within their image of (corposystem image of) success, I tried but I would not and I will not promote the corposystem beyond the necessity of trying to stay alive and healthy, for my own sake and in order to continue writing for the benefit of my community, which is not the human community, but the community of Life. (ref community)
When I retired in 2000, I looked around and saw what was happening to our culture. (Before that I thought I was helping it to succeed, but it had already died, my culture, and I didn’t even know it). So I looked around and what I saw among dedicated people and organizations was and still is — everyone “running off in different directions at the same time.” That was a gut reaction, but all my research since then has merely refined the why and how. To me it was watching evolution in action, alternating between creation of variability, stirring the pot to generate new combinations of things until that very, very, very rare event might (or might not) occur of the new “fortunate combination” (one of Campbell’s phrases) of qualities arises that is exactly what the new environment requires. Or, far more often, the species or other biological unit/combination of properties dies.
When people become involved in trying to prove who is better than whom, or who is right and who is wrong (ref), they cannot ever participate in partnerships for the growing of a common goal (that common goal would be the next higher level of organization and would therefore generate its own emergent qualities). First, there is no right and wrong in nature, and we are a part of nature. It’s all about balance and finding a combination of traits/qualities/processes/parameters that work together to generate an emergent system that is more sustainable than any of its parts. An emergent system is a new or different combination of traits, processes and/or things that is abundantly successful in freeing us from the limiting factors of our current culture or environment or system.
At every level of Life there is the possibility that Emergent Qualities/Properties might – well – emerge — that are different from the existing set of realities within which we live. But there is only one way to participate in emergent properties, and that is to find the balance within which they can emerge. Remember I keep trying to define the emergent properties that generated our now American corposystem culture. Our corposystem culture is a much higher level of organization than a car, but the process of emergence is not different. In fact I believe it to be perhaps the most basic law of nature. So I want to know how it works. I want to know so I can refuse to participate. Because we cannot evolve a better social system by continuing to do the things that caused most of our problems in the first place – and we can’t participate rationally with the evolution of a better emergent system unless and until we can figure out which COMBINATION of human qualities is needed for its success. Promoting one quality can never succeed. Because every quality has down sides. We must have a system with checks and balances or the down side will once again overwhelm all our efforts to promote the up side.
A perfect one thing will not succeed. Not a perfect peace or a perfect agriculture or a perfect politics or a perfect spirituality or ethics or happiness. None of these specific ideals can survive in a system that is all about balance, because each of these things, acting by itself within the now environment of the Living Earth – all of them have down sides. Instead, we must grow the balanced combination, and the only way to do that is:
1. Abstain from promoting the old corposystem that is based in greed, winning, competition, charity and happiness). None of the charitable organizations that I know about is consciously trying to abstain from promoting the corposystem excess, except perhaps Amnesty, Resilience, Crash Course, and a few of those that relate to growing food. A few claim to be working for the welfare of the biosystem, but they really are about people, not about ecological health, and that won’t work so long as our promotion of human welfare continues to destroy the health of the Biosystem.
2. Personify in our own behaviors the balance of ideals that we believe will grow the new culture. All of the “actions” are trying to do this, in a sort of half-hearted selfish kind of way, but they are also trying to prove that the one human quality they are trying to exemplify is better than all the human actions that others are trying to promote. That will also not work, because evolution is not interested in better, and in the end (unless we face up to the realities of how evolution actually functions) it is evolution that will decide what works in the environment and what doesn’t work in the environment. What combination of human traits can merge their qualities to create a new reality that can survive in the environment of now.
Our culture is or has been very successful. However, its elegant combination of primary human qualities (greed; dominance; being better than everyone else at something, which I call winning; charity and happiness) is no longer appropriate to the new environment it has created. Because there is not enough food and water and energy (earth, air, fire and water) available to give these things to the people, and the resources cannot be MADE available because of what our culture has done to mess up the balance of Life that generates earth, air, fire and water.
That is evolution. That is exactly how evolution works to maintain its balance. And that is why I say the only way I can succeed in my goal (which is not about fighting anything) which is to grow a NEW COMBINATION of traits, so that a NEW EMERGENT community of life can emerge. WE CANNOT DO THIS BY PARTICIPATING IN activities that empower the corposystem ethic.
It still seems to me, because humans are the cause of our problems and because we know what we must do to stop causing these problems, that we humans ought to be working consciously to found a viable, sustainable culture, but I don’t see it happening. We have trained our people that our job – all of us – is to prove that we are better than all the others, and that was not the question in the first place. Dichotomous (two sided) “better than” questions are a waste of our time and of our lives. We already know the answer: “It depends.” And anyhow that question is not relevant to the problem we face. There is no way to succeed at anything unless we ask the right questions that relate functionally to the goal that we want to accomplish. Just being better at something than someone else isn’t even a useful or usable goal.
It makes one wonder if humans really are as capable of learning as we claim to be. The result of a “divide and conquer” maneuver is fragmentation. We’ve known that since before the Tao. Fragmentation will not and cannot result in a successful emergent community until AFTER the crash, if there are any human pieces left to pick up, which is unlikely in this big of a biological catastrophe.
Nobody knows what you are trying to say.
That’s why humans need art and spirituality to create and sustain community, or to reach out to each other across communal boundaries. Because the human words and contexts for these things are different in different communities.
Ki. I once wrote a whole big blog about ki. Ki is the beautiful stooping green tree outside the window of my Japanese teacher, in Bryan Texas. That’s what it is to me. I don’t know what it is to him. Maybe the masses of white cherry blossoms alongside a stream bed in Tokyo? For me, one of these is a tree – the other is ki. Now. Before I met my Japanese teacher they both were “trees.”
Outside of community (and that is the community within which you learned how to COMMUNicate without words) – without that, there is nobody to hear you. You are only a reflection of what they think you are. That is why divide and conquer works, even if it is as simple as changing the definitions of words between one generation and the next. Like Love, or war, or happiness, or emptiness, or the one that bugs me most “heart.” An essential bodily organ. Try to crack it open. It won’t crack. Cut it open and you die. Unless you are attached to a heart-lung machine at the time.
If anyone wants to talk to me about love and they want me to be listening (instead of wondering why the inside of their body is not sloshing all around with blood) they should not talk about hearts cracked wide open.
Something like about only about 60 years ago, I have been told, some English-speaking British Christian missionaries went to Tibet and translated the language into the same basic English words that you see today represented in the attempts of Americans and Tibetans to understand each other. Whatever the word is in Tibetan (or Sanskrit) I do not know, but I do not believe the religion of the Dalai Lama could conceivably be based in any concept so trivial as the American English meaning of the word “happiness.” And yet, that is how both Tibetans and Americans try to represent that essential Tibetan word in English.
The religion of the Dalai Lama is deep and penetrating and has meanings we cannot imagine. Like another word that has been (irrationally) translated as “emptiness.” I also blogged about this, quite recently. It is one of the most unifying concepts I have ever heard. The images it brings into my head are a combination of the “net of Indra,” which I think is originally neither Christian nor Buddhist, and the measurable facts of science, which are also neither of the above.
Emptiness, I say, is one of the most beautiful philosophical concepts I have ever encountered, but of course it is not real, and that’s not how anyone else describes it. Nobody else in the world could understand how I think of “emptiness,” (unless of course I am right in my interpretation), though possibly, perhaps, the Dalai Lama’s translator might, because I got the clue from something he wrote. But nobody else. Therefore, like spirituality and art, and love and compassion, emptiness cannot be explained because nobody is listening. They are too busy trying to explain it to me.
Human emotions are not real either, depending on your meaning of the word “real.” They are nothing more than electrical currents communicating among your cells. But we humans all do have the same sorts of electrical currents and the same sorts of cells so (unlike the words for them) we also have the same kinds of emotions and instincts.
Therefore we CAN (as do horses, cows and other communal animals) understand – within the herd – our emotions, but that does not mean emotions, thinking, belief systems, language, are “real” in the solid “thing” sense of the word – any more than words are real – no matter how real they feel. Even if it is a simple matter of changing the pictures that come into your head when a word is spoken, because the pictures in your head are also not “real.”
So it may be true that nobody knows what you are trying to say. Or maybe they DO know but you can’t understand their way of saying so, because fundamentally everyone does know how you feel.
The audio version of this blog can be downloaded at:
The Dalai Lama, The Middle Way
Dear Friend —
Can you believe it? Here is a quote from a Taos (New Mexico) photographer, referring to the northern section of the Rio Grande river: “Watching visitors experience this sight is always entertaining. They seem to lose all sense of reality in the face of its grandeur.” Taos summer visitors guide 2014. This photographer, lives right in the middle of the grandeur, and he believes it to be – what? A movie prop?
But never mind our brainwashed young, today I absolutely planned to talk about my interaction with —let us call her Amanda—, but the following is what came out of my fingers when I sat down to type and three ideas came together in my inbox:
First – Your comment that most people cannot imagine a world without the energy of oil (see ref A below). This is true. And there are many other important things that most people can’t imagine. You can. That is why I picked your project to support, in my small way, out of the hundreds I have looked over in the past 15 years. —Amanda— can also imagine, though not yet as deeply, because she is much younger. So she is the other I support. I mean enough to stop what I’m doing and think about what y’all are doing. Of course, I have seen a number of other people with this kind of imagination, but without projects to which I could contribute usefully. Not unless they would ask the questions.
Second – I think the creation of a central dogma of imagination is one of the ways (maybe the major way) that our corposystem prevents discussion of critically important dissenting ideas (or any dissenting ideas, but now is critically important to our survival). It’s pretty much what “1984,” the book (B), is about. David, for example, used an elegant corposystem-imposed method very effectively to disempower discussion of biological reality.
I am not saying that David, or someone up there in the corposystem, is telling us not to talk or think about (something). Of course, they are to some extent, but more importantly I believe lock-step thinking is part of the biology of what maintains human systems, while outside-the-box thinking provides the variability necessary if change is to happen.
The Law of Life, generating novel systems by recombination, is how evolution brings about change, but once you get a viable combination of traits together in one system, and that system fills a niche it can feed upon, then that combination of traits is maintained essentially changeless until the system dies. To survive, the system must protect this unique combination of traits, so it does not change; rather, it becomes more and more of what it is. Whether the system be the longer and longer neck of a giraffe, or the growth fixation of the corposystem, the primary function of a system is to maintain itself.
I believe behaviors such as co-dependence are at root biological imperatives that serve similar social functions. Easier–to-recognize examples, such as the glass-half-full-syndrome
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=725&action=edit – post_name, http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/
and the nice-speak syndrome (http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/bare-bones-bio…156-nice-speak/) (again, see “1984”), similarly protect human systems from outside ideas. Even ideas that would prevent massive human suffering but also would, inevitably, change the system. The corposystem is not only a business plan – it is an evolved biological system that operates just as evidently out of the Law of Evolution as do physical systems.
Third – I also believe there are physical reasons for our human disinclination to imagine or talk outside the model required by the system. Outside the box causes intrinsic biological pain to humans. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140514-how-extreme-isolation-warps-minds
In sum, the function of a system is to maintain itself, and that is also the simplest way to describe the Law of Evolution. I see it everywhere within our corposystem, equally as I see it in the tree of Life and the development of the whole universe. I think it is a natural law more basic than any other we have described so far.
So what do we do about this in a culture that defends itself by finding ways to not discuss the issues?
My answer is to speak as truthfully as possible (http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/ factfictionfancy-130820/), trying to balance the long-term and short-term benefits to the individual, who is usually me; the culture, which is the corposystem; and the needs of the Biosystem, which we all require for our survival. At the same time I have usually tried to avoid being lynched (or crucified) for challenging the system at it’s weak links. The goal is to shake up the corposystem world view by challenging demonstrably false statements/world view (http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/bare-bones-bio…3b-world-views/), so as to make it possible for people to think about the content rather than the package in which it is wrapped – to loosen a chink in our world views — while at the same time avoiding unnecessary unkindness and/or revolutionary violence, which is what will happen if the goal fails.
There is the very remote chance that humans can pull through this biological crisis because we have two unique advantages that no other species has ever had. 1) We can think, when we choose to do so. And (2) the information is available to us, whenever we decide to use it for the benefit of all sentient beings.
This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com and KEOS radio 89.1 in Bryan, Texas. The audio copy of this blog is available at:
I have nothing much to lose. So – that’s what I do. I have tried it both ways. To conform to the system merely empowers the system — without fundamentally changing it – because systems are flexible and can co-opt challenges, as ours has done with the charitable activities, to use the challenges to empower the system itself. Very clever. But I don’t want to empower our toxic system. As I have said from the beginning, my search is to find behaviors that will not make matters worse. And I believe that can be done only by not participating in it. That’s not possible, so one participates as little as is possible.
The greater good is compassionate honesty, with the goal in mind of reducing suffering of all sentient beings — not only us. And I think at least Tibetan Buddhism, at least the Dalai Lama, has made some fairly strong statements about wise compassion, and about education toward reality, that conform with this view. (Not the view about evolution, of course, I think he is unfortunately not well informed in this area, but about wise compassion. And he is clear that wise compassion requires education. And effort.) (D)
A) Kelly J. Ponte, PhD. “Retaining soil moisture in the American Southwest. Sunstone Press, Santa Fe NM. (p19) “Humans do not need oil to live. Oil makes our lives more convenient. Water makes our lives possible.” Let’s all try to imagine a world without water available to humans and how it is coming to be. The information is available and you can think.
B) George Orwell, “1984”
and the nice-speak syndrome http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/
D) – Bikkhu Bodhi, translator, “In the Buddha’s Words,” Wisdom Publications, Boston
Writing this blog has also moved a chink in my world view. I have been thinking in the back of my mind (corpo-think) that we could “move” the corposystem toward intelligent imagination by educating the masses to understand the implications of the Law of Life. Now I’m reading of the Buddha’s wisdom as translated by a Theravaden Buddhist, with a forward by The Tibetan Buddhist. Apparently, that was one of The Buddha’s insights – that we cannot educate the masses away from their world view (because of the many ways in which a social system protects itself from change, mentioned above but he didn’t know the Law of Life). He finally concluded that every person must address this responsibility for herself, and that seems to be most of what he talked about to householders. Well, looking at the imaginations of our recent generations of well educated young householders – and the fact that more children are born every year than we can possibly influence, and immediately indoctrinated into the corposystem world view – what do you think? That’s the problem with a system. It is more powerful than an individual, even if she is right.
Predator insect eats grasshopper
Predator reptile tries to decide if I am too big for him.
Down in the riverbottom where I was walking along until I sensed something that smelled very much like a predator mammal, or perhaps that angry elk, My various senses have been much improved in this lovely fine clear air, including my sense of smell. I realized this morning when I couldn’t find Bitsy in the house, that she must be near. At the moment she smells of skunk. And then this predator elk downin the riverbed that never has water but does make a nice path right next to my house. I went in the house.
Pain. Terror. Suffering.
But I did manage to finish my income tax. I didn’t finish before leaving Texas because I sat down with all my preparations and the software for which I had paid a fairly large amount of money (tax deductible in part, in theory) and downloaded it onto my oldest laptop, and tried to open it only to receive a message that it wouldn’t work on that operating system.
So, OK, I am not going to change that operating system, because it contains some of my favorite other software – in fact most of it, it is my working computer – and that software cannot be updated. The company (Adobe) no longer makes available software that I want to use. In fact they don’t make it available at all – you have to rent it by the month and give them full access to your computer. Corposystem then has complete control over everything I want to do on line and can withdraw it at any time. Well, the bigger point is that I do not WANT to and it is frequently impossible for me to be on line all the time. Especially without electricity to run it all, and until about a week or so ago I did not have the electricity. So I am not getting rid of that computer, though it is the first good computer I ever had and is old.
Rather, some years ago, I bought another, identical second-hand laptop. Identical except it has a newer operating system. This is good, except that I noticed last year that once again the OS began to not work on much of what is required. Such as the software that I downloaded to do my income tax. (As they have access to the insides of my computer you would think they would check to see if it would work). So before I left Texas I bought a Mac Mini, mostly to get the new software, but still I can’t throw away the old software because I don’t want what Adobe is selling now, and I have bought a large amount of their older/better software. The mini cost a lot less than replacing all that software I need. However, the mini is not a laptop and therefore requires a source of electricity or it won’t run.
And, to make a long story short, I could only run one bit of equipment at a time, and only for a short time when the sun was shining. I assumed the Mini could handle the downloaded tax software, but I couldn’t use the mini.
Fortunately, last week or so I GOT MORE SOLAR.(YAAAY, I can now work when I want to and how I want to. I can now run the mini with its up-to-date OS, a monitor, the internet access and a printer all at the same time. And if I need to work all day and all night, I can add an electric light.) Now I can do my income tax, so yesterday I turned them all on and sat down to do it. I downloaded the tax software onto the Mini. I spent some time learning how to use the new OS. I already had a printout of all the figures I need from 2013. I started to fill in all the stuff the software requires and got about four hours into the project when I realized there was no way I would be able to figure out what the h— they are talking about and the IRS instructions are a lot more useful and easier to understand. Although it doesn’t correct your mistakes before you hand it in, they definitely let you know after.
So, what ho, I can now leave the internet access on all day long and into the night if I want to, so I went to IRS to download the necessary instructions. IRS was down. Well, no surprise on the day before the deadline, so I worked on organizing my info until dinner time and went back and tried to download everything I would need. It turns out, the IRS no longer makes this information downloadable. Not all of it. And even with three computers I cannot a) keep them all on line at the same time, or b) read them on line. Everything jumps around when you try to read documents on line. I need a hard copy to check and double check and try to understand what the h— they are talking about. So I did a work-around on that. The site went down again after dinner, when I needed another form, but I finally got it all. Used up half a ream of paper, which is too bad, but I imagine the IRS is saving more paper than everyone together used in olden days.
OK, that’s enough about that, except for one other problem that I will not describe, and that is FINDING, in my files and/or on my computer(s) and/or backup disks, the information I need. All my files have changed location since I packed them up and moved. In fact, my files are in a continual flux of change and have been since about 7 years ago, and I can never find anything easily. So I looked through EVERYTHING before I was finished, spread stuff all over the cabin, had an anxiety attack that I controlled, and before I was finished, I even lost all my pens in the giant mess.
All the things I put away when I arrived are now scattered throughout, and believe me in the middle part of this exercise I was in PAIN, TERROR, and SUFFERING between wondering what the h— they are talking about and whether or not I would be able to find whatever it was/is. Much worse than a bear climbing into the back of the truck. Or even exposure to dread diseases, as long as one doesn’t actually catch the diseases.
It happens every year. And yes, I DID prepare for this when the deadline passed and I filed from Texas for automatic extension. I just didn’t remember what I had prepared.
It didn’t bother me at all that it rained much of the day yesterday. What a gloomy mess. Late, late in the night I crashed under the bednet in the cabin.
And woke up realizing that today is the absolute deadline and I need to get out of here to a post office. Probably I can. The sun has arrived at the cabin this morning. We now go out for our morning meditation, and if it doesn’t rain before about noon the mud will probably be dried off enough for the 4WD, the solar now gives me a cup of coffee in the morning, Bitsy and I will put our backs to the sun and breath clean air for a while. I don’t know why our snake stopped coming to bask with us. I miss her. But otherwise, by this afternoon, the worst day of the year will be behind us.
And the snake is back, and a beautiful thing she is; so ends our time of trial.
Except now I have to clean up the cabin.
And the computer files.