When I stepped out the door into a bright misty morning, the entire sky was the rainbow, from the red sun rising behind my Thanksgiving tree through all the shades and tones of color to the purple horizon on the other side of my world.

And my thanksgiving tree, as always this time of year, was glorious. The Thanksgiving tree grows on my neighbor’s side of the fence, but all year long it smiles at me and at Thanksgiving time it glows with warm colors. I wish the same for you.

“Behind the hardness there is fear, and if you touch the heart of the fear you find sadness, and if you touch the heart of the sadness, you find the clear blue sky.”

(Photo by Zoriah)


I think women are different from men, and I have a degree in biology that says I’m qualified to make that statement. So when I take a course in empathy — men are teaching women how to be empathic — it reminds me of the whole of written history where nothing was believable (say, empathy, though as a biologist I can’t prove this yet) until men believed it.

Now some men at the forefront of peaceful thinking believe if they can teach everyone to be empathic, then peace will arrive on earth. But most women were already empathic, and their empathy was a source of considerable pain. So they had to learn how to turn it off in order to live in this culture. In my case, I invented a method “shields up” to protect myself, lest other peoples’ emotions contaminate my own. Especially those that hurt. And shields down only when it was safe. And most women understand what I mean when I say this. Pema Chodron certainly must, though I have not asked her personally.

So here’s the thing. In a world that lately more and more glories in hatred and hostility (based in the truly stupid ideal of “winning”) — if you believe in empathy, which I certainly do, I can give you specific examples — then we (at least we women) do NOT need to grow a greater ability to experience the emotions of other people. What we need is more and better skills to understand the difference between our own emotions and theirs, and to protect ourselves from the painful ones that envelope us, so we can come out of our little protective shields and make the world real.

Bare Bones Biology 031 – Emergent Problem Solving

We live in a sad time folks. We face choices that are different from those of our ancestors, during all the growing times of plenty, yet appear quite similar. Up to now in this series, we’ve talked about three basic models of problem solving that that are available to us for dealing with these problems. One is the head-butting model; one is the “I’m OK, you’re OK” do-nothing model; and the third is to understand our common goal and then figure out how we can all work together to accomplish that goal.

Humans normally do use one of those methods to solve our problems. Hard science tells us a different set of facts that are equally important. It defines the limits of our power to make change – the things we can not change with our technologies – that would be the limits of our head games. And a third factor, common sense, tells us that change, from birth to death, is always with us, our best teacher as we strive to bring more and more logical reality to our various world views. Most people mix these three sorts of information all up together and drop them into the same pot, and then they fight over which one we need to use, rather than using each for its own value. Three basic sources of good information, each provides a different sort of information, and most of it we aren’t listening to because we want to believe there is only one right answer (and of course that would of course be my answer).

The borders of our experience have expanded so dramatically, that our separate world views walk around together, inside our different heads, rubbing shoulders, being polite most of the time, but inhabiting parallel universes. My worldview is so different from yours that we sometimes hardly can understand each other unless we only talk about trivia, and yet all our world views are logical constructs that are based in our understanding of life. Life is life. Your world view grew out of the same foundational reality as mine. And we continue to understand life better and better – the human behaviors, the mathematical facts, and the common sense — as time goes by.

However, given the complexity of growth, emergent properties, evolution, and the living mysteries that we don’t understand, we think we are confused. Or maybe we think we are not confused but someone else is. In fact – we really aren’t. We know very clearly what is happening. The differences in our perspectives lie mostly in how we react to this knowledge, according to our different world views.

The reality is that, worldwide, we have hit the end of the earth ecosystem’s ability to produce enough green plants to feed our further human growth. So we know one certain measurable scientifically provable mathematical fact. That our growth inside this living ecosystem will be stopped. In fact, it is being stopped right now, by the ecosystem, in all the ways that were predictable, and predicted, and in additional ways. Starvation, disease, war, genocide. And climate change.

And people are waking up. People are honing their problem-solving weapons of choice. Many outcomes are possible: that the head-butters (that’s including the good guys) will kill each other off; the I’m OK group will no doubt fail to take actions that are necessary to survive; and that will just leave you and me to plan for the kind of future that we want for our descendants. Do we want our children to live forever into the future butting heads? I know some of us do, but that may not be an option, given the flaws of that particular problem-solving method. And I guess those people would say, as I’ve said before: “We can’t do nothing.” Well, that’s true, we can’t do nothing if we want something better for our children’s children, but how can we possibly believe that those are the only two choices for resolving our common problem? And only one right one. And of course that would be mine.

Bare Bones Biology
KEOS 89.1, Bryan, Texas

Hoo-hooo, hooo
I opened the door to the dark morning and an owl hooted from the top of my dead tree. An enormous owl. Bigger than my cat, I’m glad she is indoors. He jumped off the tree and flew noiselessly out over the pasture that was frosted in frozen fog. Brrr.