Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling

You may be surprised to hear, given that I have made about $58.62 gross over the past year from pursuing the altruistic goals described in my blog, radiocasts and books (not counting the mouse genetics book), that I signed up for an internet course that is basically about self-promotion. I’m pretty much surprised myself, especially as it cost quite a lot more than $58.62. On the good side, a lot of other people signed up, too, and so we got to electronically meet each other, which is very interesting.

Eth-noh-tec (www.Ethnohtec.org) is one of these nonprofit organizations, based in San Francisco. Eth-noh-tec’s mission also happens to fit perfectly in my current Bare Bones Biology series that is about human communication. Or, just in case you didn’t notice the trend, here is a rundown:

Bare Bones Biology 107 – Right, Left or Wrong (about the brain)
Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication – across disciplines
Bare Bones Biology 109 – Communication
Bare Bones Biology 110 – Rituals
Bare Bones Biology 111 – Rituals again
Bare Bones Biology 112 – Thinking
Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion (and poetry)
Bare Bones Biology 114 – Great Aridness (about books)
Bare Bones Biology 115 – Story Telling (performance art)

Eth-noh-tec does not need introduction; because of what they do, they introduce themselves. Next week another sort of communication, the workshop, will be represented, and then we will pay attention to some people who attempt to report the true facts in a world that is now awash with commercial and political propaganda. As David Barsamian says: “It is the job of a good citizen to inform him/herself well enough to understand the difference between propaganda and reality.” That is also the aim of FactFictionFancy.

For today, this is a nice little bit of performance art created just for BareBonesBiology, and so it’s important to hear it. It’s not meant to be a dry list of facts, but an experience that will help us to appreciate the realities expressed. So wait a couple of ticks after this is posted and then click on the link, or go to Bare Bones Biology and listen to the presentation.

Just in case you can’t hear it for some reason, here is the transcript of Eth-noh-tec:

“Welcome. My name is Nancy Wang.
“My name is Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo. Together we’re known as
“Eth-noh-tec
“An Asian-American, kinetic storytelling nonprofit arts organization.
“We are in the business of telling stories. We dedicate ourselves to building cultural bridges that celebrate diversity and create compassionate communities, through stories that reveal our universal truths.
“Storytelling is an excellent mode of communication, and one in which we accomplish our mission. As we all know, communication is not always easy. We all have a lens through which we see, hear and feel the world around us. So any one of us might say one thing that is clear to ourselves, but the person we’re talking to, it’s not clear, and that’s because we all have a lens through which we exist in this world.
“Then there is storytelling. Stories and folk tales, myths and legends, you know a story can cut right through some of that jumble by offering us understanding through metaphor, and a good plot, or a fascinating character.

“Storytelling creates empathic listening. If it’s a good story, it will impart information on a level that our brains can get, despite our minds’ lens and our minds’ biases to reach and open our hearts.
“And so recently I wrote and performed the story of my Chinese ancestors, who, looking for a better life, traveled from China on a jumk boat, a Chinese sailboat, in 1850, to reach the shores of California. Well, they crashed into Carmel bay. Now compassion started immediately when they were rescued by a group of Rumsen Indians. And then later, when the Chinese looked around this pristine Monterey peninsula, they saw that there were no fishing boats in the Pacific Ocean, or in the bays. And so, they started the fishing industry in Monterey, which soon grew, and carved out California.
“However, if you were to visit Monterey today, you wouldn’t even know that this history existed, because there’s no evidence at all that 800 plus Chinese fishermen and their four fishing villages were ever there.

“Yet, the fishing industry continued to thrive there. There’s just no Chinese doing it or profiting from it, because from the 1850s through the early 1940s, there was blatant anti-Chinese legislation and illegal acts of violence against the Chinese, by European settlers, most of whom arrived there after the Chinese. Villages were burned, purges took place, whole Chinese communities were marched out. Beatings and hangings took place.

“In short, ethnic cleansing. But, there were also those who helped the Chinese, though very few, but it made a huge difference in allowing for some peaceful, compassionate exchanges between the European and Chinese settlers.

“And without those exchanges, I might not be here today. The Chinese must have taken to heart those who saw them as people, not things, and who were kind, even friends, and this allowed them to live their lives. They were able to contribute their skills and ingenuity to America. So my story is an important story, and it provides a missing piece of the American historical landscape. And it also shows how not knowing one’s story leaves too much room for stereotyping and prejudice, leading to misunderstandings and to violence.

“People of color have been an integral part of building this nation.
“People of color have been a part of and have built this nation just as much as the white population.
“Imagine this. A world without compassion; a world without empathy. Without this, the rise of racism, bigotry, genocide, and war could spell the total annihilation of humankind.
Hope for a compassionate world lies in waking up the heart. Waking up compassion and showing examples of compassion. Living a life of compassion. We do this through our art. The art of storytelling.
“Remember, one cannot hate another whose story we know.
“A story is the shortest distance between the brain and the heart.
“Without compassion, we’re left with prejudices, intolerance, and distrust. So today, learn about someone you know nothing about.

“And tell a moving story to someone.

“Practice stepping into another situation.

“And if you want to know more about us, we’re at http://www.Ethnohtec.org.

Bless you.”

Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling
KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan TX
A podcast of this post may be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
http://www.Ethnohtec.org

Empathy

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.

Empathic Civilization

This is very nice, but it tells only one side of the story. If you want to truly understand the current human dilemma, please read the first chapter of Jeremy Rifkin’s book of the same name. All the empathy in creation will not help to resolve our dilemma unless we apply it to the service of rebalancing the physical and physiological life-support systems of the living earth. The danger is that we will assume the earth recognizes human values and needs in the same way that we do. The critical differences are the cause of the dilemma. I have not seen a description of this dilemma published in any other place than the first chapter of Empathic Civilization. If you want to know the real truth, please read it. Please.