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Sunday, August 2, 2015 ~ Inalienable Human Needs
Miki Kashtan has said that when she first introduces NVC, she rarely if ever uses the OFNR template. Instead she’ll focus on two practical tenants: 1) tracking all the needs on the table or holding everyone’s needs with care (explored in our discussion of ‘interdependence’ last post) and 2) delineating needs from strategies. We’ll work with the latter premise as our topic this month.
While the NVC concept of universal human needs can seem a bit abstract at first, one parallel or association that has been useful for me to consider in that of ‘inalienable human needs’. Allow me to explain. During mediation training with John Kinyon, I first became aware of the categorization of most NVC needs lists into nine subsets that can be even further reduced to three broad classifications. It was mentioned that part of why this can come in handy is that during conflict/mediation, our prefrontal cortex too often goes offline, rendering complex cognitive skills inaccessible. By training oneself, as a practice, during mundane day-to-day periods (when the reptilian brain is not activated) to track which of only a few basic needs are in play, it’s more likely to be on the radar screen to do so during periods with higher stakes (and greater intensity, psychically). John Kinyon has suggested the categories of peace/love/joy (or well-being/connection/self-expression), which I like and use all the time. But for those not yet familiar with an NVC universal needs list, another way of introducing the concept that I’ve come up with is that of equating inalienable human rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with universal human needs (which I’ll elaborate on in just a moment).
What then grows out of this ‘needs’ mindfulness practice is the capacity to attend to whatever arises with greater equanimity, by having an ‘object of concentration’ almost as you would in a mantra mediation where you are tracking both needs being attended to and those not being attended to, as with NVC mediation’s ritual of celebrate/mourn/learn as a debriefing practice following a mediation. Similarly we can celebrate/mourn/learn after an interaction with someone or while taking in the news and so forth.
NVC Resources (focusing on “Marinating Needs”):
Three examples of Inalienable Rights (via Wikipedia):
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
As the Kashtan sisters have written on their Universal Human Needs list (it’s worth noting that the vast majority of NVC certified trainers borrow from these same categories originated by Chilean economist Max-Neef — e.g. Needs Wheel & Feelings and Needs):
“This list builds on Marshall Rosenberg’s original needs list with categories adapted from Manfred Max-Neef. Neither exhaustive nor definitive, it can be used for study and for discovery about each person’s authentic experience.”
The categories begin with “Subsistence & Security” and “Freedom” (see first column, on left hand side of page) then concludes with “Connection” & “Meaning” (middle and far right columns). These could roughly be paralleled with the inalienable rights of “Life” (Subsistence/Security), “Liberty” (Freedom) and the “Pursuit of Happiness” (Connection/Meaning).
And the quality of needs, as being distinct from that which is concrete (values verses strategies, see PLATO, beneath) likewise aligns with the definition of unalienable/inalienable:
“Unalienable: incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred.”
Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1523:
You can not surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual’s have unalienable rights.
Miki Kashtan re: How to Differentiate Between Needs and Strategies
Kashtan: “Needs lists, how to say this, is intrinsically an approximation, and the reason for that is because it’s isolated concepts, and life is fluid — so whether or not something is a need, some people start getting into kind of hairy conversations about whether this is a need or not. And, for me, what matters is two things, one is to ensure that what I’m talking about is clearly not attached to specific strategies. And there is an acronym that someone came up with that helps with that distinction. The acronym is PLATO. Like the philosopher Plato and it stands for…
If you have any one of those five in what you are imagining is a need, you know that it is a strategy, because it is in material reality. So that’s one thing. Once you’ve taken all of those things out, you know that you are not in a particular strategy and you’re more likely to be in the energetic, spiritual, gestalt of the need, and then — from there on — the second question is — “if this is sufficiently deep to find the self-connection that I want?” So, for example, I can say that Comfort is a Need, but for me personally (I’m not saying for anyone else), most of the time (not even always) if I look inside to understand myself and what I come up with a need for comfort, it doesn’t feel like the end of a journey, it’s not really something I can go like ‘oh, yes that’s it I feel connected’ — than I keep inquiring and go deeper, but if it is sufficient than it’s a need, I don’t care what anyone else says, but in this moment it is a need.”
So when we become more aware of how feelings that may arise in us are rooted in needs, then we can attend to emotional roller coaster rides via the guard rail of noting what we are valuing at any given moment.
Here’s an example. Last week I was listening to an NPR segment related to the current Planned Parenthood controversy.
At first I listened to it as I ordinarily would, but then when one guest spoke of her belief of life beginning at conception while another related her concerns that if a mother’s health is at risk, it should be up to the woman and those closest to her to decide what to do. Likely as I’ve been practicing Breath, Body, Need more routinely these days, it (at last!) crossed my mind that they were both concerned with the underlying inalienable right/need of life (or subsitence/security — a.k.a. peace/well-being — on an NVC universal needs list). With this paradigm shift of attuning with a needs-consciousness in mind, I listened with keener curiosity and openness when next up they spoke of their differing takes on either a woman’s right (to contraception) or a religious organization’s right to maintain its integrity by not to complying with policies that are conflict with its beliefs (religious freedoms), I again noted that this was in the realm of the inalienable right/need for liberty or autonomy/freedom on a needs list. Finally when both sides discuss how this issue impacts the web of families/communities or the meaning that each draws upon, there again seem to be the inalienable rights/needs that could be encapsulated in the ‘pursuit of happiness’, i.e. transcendence, meaning etc. (it’s worth noting that according to historian Gary Wills, ‘happiness’ had more of the connotation of ‘virtue’ at the time that the declaration was originally penned).
Garry Wills’ classic 1978 book on the Declaration, Inventing America, puts it well: “When Jefferson spoke of pursuing happiness,” wrote Wills, “he had nothing vague or private in mind. He meant public happiness which is measurable; which is, indeed, the test and justification of any government.”
Of course none of this resolves quite different, even clashing, ‘strategic preferences’ (in NVC terms, separating the core needs/values at stake from the variety of strategies we employ in order to attend to these), which from listening to the radio broadcast was abundantly clear have remained deeply, often bitterly in conflict, however — for the purposes of this blog post — it’s worth noting how a simple shift to needs consciousness afforded me a bit more spaciousness to hear all of the points-of-view in play.
Similarly, by attending to the universal needs being touched on, while temporarily bracketing specific strategies (or conflict-resolutions), one may have greater capacity to be present with challenging (painful, controversial) news, such as that of climate change, without shutting down or turning away entirely. One can also choose to look for needs being attended to, despite broader doom and gloom overwhelm that it inevitably evokes. Here’s an example:
Dr. Simon Lamb, Narrator of Thin Ice: the inside story of climate science
“Today the main effort to manage CO2 emissions is the U.N. Convention on Climate Change. It was obvious to me that getting the whole world to agree on CO2 emissions is proving depressingly difficult. But what finally cheered me up was the experience that I had with climate scientists, learning about their science. Over three years I’ve met dozens and dozens of scientists. I was convinced that they’ve not been lying; there is no hoax. In fact, I was impressed by the breadth of the subject. How carefully the scientists went about collecting their data, scrutinizing all possible sources of error, and how open-minded they were about their conclusions. This was science at its best and it has given us a great gift: the ability to look into our future and to shape it.”
Thus is born this cultivated practice of tracking what we appreciate and/or mourn, threads of which can be found in the tapestry of any life experience, by attuning to which needs are being attended to and which are not.
Chapter Three: Coming From Gratitude ~ Excerpt: …Gratitude does this. It’s a resource we can learn to tap into at any moment. Here’s an example.
Julia had just seen the news. She felt outraged. A school in a refugee camp had been bombed, children killed, she was so full of fury she could hardly speak about anything else. Then, for a moment, she thought of the reporters who covered this story. They had risked their lives so that she could be kept informed. The news editors may also have stuck their necks out, choosing to include this item rather than the latest celebrity gossip. As she thought about the steps they had taken, she felt grateful. Her gratitude reminded her she wasn’t alone in caring about what happened.
2) Honoring Our Pain – Tears
A couple of examples of grief amidst climate change:
Photo of M Jackson, courtesy of the author.
“I wanted to explore our capacity to experience personal loss—the loss of family, the loss of lovers, the loss of a local landscape, the loss of certainty in the weather—to grieve profoundly while simultaneously not giving in,” Jackson says.
A few minutes into a YouTube clip (above) Sierra Club’s Executive Michael Brune pauses for about ten seconds, chokes up as he recounts being terrified to consider the world his children would be inheriting.
Read the first chapter here.
Chapter 7 ~ Despair Work: Owning and Honoring Our Pain for the World
Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “What do we need to do to save our world?” His questioners expected him to identify the best strategies to pursue in social and environmental acton, but Thich Nhat Hanh’s answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.” In despair work, that is what we do: we uncover our pain for the world, and honor it. We bring to awareness our deep inner responses to the suffering of our fellow beings and the progressive destruction of the natural world, our larger body. These responses include dread, rage, sorrow, and guilt. They are healthy and inevitable– and usually blocked by the pressures of daily life and fear of being overwhelmed by despair. Now, in this first stage of the Work that Reconnects, they are allowed to surface without shame or apology.
Joanna Macy on Uncertainty
“It’s that knife edge of uncertainty where we come alive.”
“I see such promise in the human heart and at the same time I see such tragedy. And, so, my heart breaks over and over.”
Joanna Macy: “The pain is the price of consciousness in a threatened and suffering world. It is not only natural, it is an absolutely necessary component of our collective healing. As in all organisms, pain has a purpose: it is a warning signal, designed to trigger remedial action. The problem, therefore, lies not with our pain for the world, but in our repression of it. Our efforts to dodge or dull it surrender us to futility — or in systems’ terms, cut the feedback loop and block effective response.”
Dialogue between Joanna Macy and Terry Patten
This provides a clear and inspiring introduction to the Work That Reconnects. Terry’s blog, introducing the dialogue, can be read here, and the recording can be listened to here (see entry for 6th Dec 2012).
E.K. Hunt’s “A Radical Critique of Welfare Economics” in Growth, Profits and Property, ed. Edward J. Nell (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 245-246:
The Achilles heel of welfare economics is its treatment of externalities. … In a market economy any action of one individual or enterprise which induces pleasure or pain to any other individual or enterprise and is under or over priced by a market constitutes an externality. Since the vast majority of productive and consumptive acts are social, i.e., to some degree they involve more than one person, it follows that they will involve externalities … If we assume the maximizing economic man of bourgeois economics, and if we assume the government establishes property rights and markets for these rights whenever an external diseconomy is discovered [the preferred ‘solution’ of the conservative and increasingly dominant trend within the field of public finance], then each man will soon discover that through contrivance he can impose external diseconomies on the other man, knowing that the bargaining within the new market that will be established will surely make him better off. The more significant the social cost imposed upon his neighbor, the greater will be his reward in the bargaining process. It follows from the orthodox assumption of maximizing man that each man will create a maximum of social costs which he can impose on others. Ralph d’Arge and I have labeled this process ‘the invisible foot‘ of the laissez faire … market place. The ‘invisible foot‘ ensures us that in a free-market … economy each person pursuing only his own good will automatically and most efficiently, do his part in maximizing the general public misery. … To paraphrase a well-known precursor of this theory: Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual external costs of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public misery nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible foot to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it any better for society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes social misery more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.
I’ve included what’s beneath as I’ve heard more than one Californian/friend recently speak of the eerie orange glow of a nearby forest fire lighting up the night sky. To be transparent, I’m still grappling with what it means to be alive at a time when a public figure of Gov. Jerry Brown’s stature, i.e. with the responsibilities of overseeing a state the size and complexity of California (not to mention one dealing with countless wildfires covering three times the acres as at this same time last year) is throwing caution to the wind, shattering taboos, and openly acknowledging what many are pondering privately or whispering behind closed doors. What does it mean that humanity is both contemplating this prospect (of what it has wrought — bearing witness to the sixth great mass extinction of other species — of what it still could conceivably bring upon itself, in a doomsday scenario), and not, as a collective?
Climate Change and the Catholic Church
ROME – Pope Francis is calling on the world to take action against global warming, and many conservatives in the United States are up in arms. The pope should stick to morality, they say, and not venture into science. But, as the climate debate unfolds this year, most of humanity will find Francis’s message compelling: we need both science and morality to reduce the risk to our planet.
The first point to note is that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Francis’s call for climate action. Unfortunately, their views are not represented in the US Congress, which defends Big Coal and Big Oil, not the American people. The fossil-fuel industry spends heavily on lobbying and the campaigns of congressmen such as Senators Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe. The world’s climate crisis has been aggravated by America’s democratic crisis.
Read the full article at Project Syndicate
“We don’t even know how far we’ve gone, or if we’ve gone over the edge,” Brown said. “There are tipping points, feedback loops. This is not some linear set of problems that we can predict. We have to take measures against an uncertain future which may well be something no one ever wants. We are talking about extinction. We are talking about climate regimes that have not been seen for tens of millions of years. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.” See also: California Gov. Jerry Brown at Vatican’s Climate Summit
Brown’s office later published his remarks:
I think I’ll take as my text – if I may – some words of Saint Paul to the Galatians, “God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” And what Saint Paul said in reference to God we can also say about God’s creation. We have heard what we’re doing to that creation, what a trillion tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will do. And that text that God is not mocked is not susceptible to compromise, to regrets. It’s inexorable, it’s absolutes. We have to respond and if we don’t, the world will suffer. We will all suffer. In fact, many people – millions are suffering already.
Now, to change the world from a fossil fuel based culture is not easy, but there are plenty of examples where it’s happening. So, I can bring you the example of California, which for many years has been taking on serious environmental challenges. California is now deriving 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and in that source we don’t count nuclear or hydro. Secondly, we have the most efficient buildings, because of our building regulations, in the entire country. As a result, California citizens have saved tens of billions of dollars in energy bills. The same is true for our appliance standards, the most efficient in the country. As far as automobile pollution, we have very strict tailpipe emissions standards. And as a result and because of some changes in Washington, those standards are now adopted as the national standard of America. And that source of pollution is going down, not fast enough but steadily. We also have 40 percent of the electric cars in the United States.
As The Associated Press pointed out, Brown was once a Jesuit seminarian, so he apparently isn’t just some dilettante politico trotting out pithy Pauline admonitions for the occasion.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, blaming climate change for hot weather that has exacerbated the state’s historic drought, has pressed Republican presidential candidates in recent weeks to address the issue in their campaigns, first scolding them in a letter and then telling reporters, “My message is real clear: California’s burning. What the hell are you going to do about it?”
On Saturday, a rejoinder.
Asked about Brown’s prodding, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said at a gathering of Republican activists that the climate has been changing forever and that “global warming alarmists” are perhaps “just interested politically in more power over the economy and our lives.” [Read more here]
Here’s my bet about the future of Sunni, Shiite, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Israeli relations: If they don’t end their long-running conflicts, Mother Nature is going to destroy them all long before they destroy one another. Let me point out a few news items you may have missed while debating the Iran nuclear deal.
On July 31, USA Today reported that in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, a city adjacent to the Persian Gulf, the heat index soared to 163 degrees “as a heat wave continued to bake the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth. ‘That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,’ AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement.
“While the temperature was ‘only’ 115 degrees, the dew point was an unfathomable 90 degrees. … The combination of heat and humidity, measured by the dew point, is what makes the heat index — or what the temperature actually feels like outside.”
(Continues here: NYT: Thomas-Friedman-The-Worlds-Hot-Spot)
“A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without jeopardizing the prospects of future generations,” Lester Brown of Worldwatch Institute.
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Do you suffer from climate guilt? A dose of philosophy can help
July 29, 2015 6.20am EDT
Faculty member at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
People cannot engage in something they cannot see or feel. We need concrete reasons to care and act. In this way, climate change presents a threefold intangible challenge:
- we can perceive the weather, but the climate system is something rather abstract, a statistical construct
- we now know climate change is anthropogenic, or man-made, but how can we understand this? One way is to say: mankind is the reason, but this becomes also very abstract. Who actually is represented with mankind? Another way is to say: China or the US is to blame, as if we are speaking of subjects and not concepts. We cannot grasp how you and I contribute to climate change, not by doing something extraordinary, but with our everyday lives
- we cannot perceive how we as individuals can contribute to mitigating climate change. Eighteenth-century philosopher George Berkeley stated that “To be is to be perceived.” If we can’t see the change in the climate system, nor the reason why it is actually occurring, does it exist in our daily lives?
This situation requires people to consider how they perceive climate change and what they can do to make climate change more tangible and real in their daily lives.
The intangible climate
When talking about the climate system, we have to realize that we are not dealing with something tangible. Climate is not to be seen outside the window; climate is not the weather. It is a collection of data and patterns in a statistical construct.
Furthermore, climate is not here and now. Its only possible way to be perceived is through recognition of patterns, by computer modeling and, most importantly, through representations.
Images can represent the effects of climate change, such as desertification or deforestation, but not climate change itself. However, visual representations of climate change are very common in advocacy groups’ campaigns, showing polar bears, icebergs, deserts or images that show the world on fire.
These images become the referent – that is, climate change – itself, thus shaping our perceptions of it, the importance we give it and our perception of our own capacity to do something about it. This is why, if publicity and science communication campaigns represent climate change with images of deserts or polar bears, the public will perceive it as something distant and unimportant to their cosmopolitan lives. Or, on the other hand, these images may shape their perceptions to think climate change is something so big that individual actions are futile… (continues: Do you suffer from climate guilt?)
3) Seeing with New Eyes – Lightbulbs
By opening to both our gratitude for this earth while still honoring the pain that arises over its current deterioration, we stretch to dwell more deeply upon the ‘inalienable human needs’ that are at stake and, hopefully, in the process become more elastic in the kinds of strategic dialogue we’re then capable of having (and with which we must engage in order to survive, perhaps even yet to thrive).
From a novella by James Lawrence Powell (title, an allusion to Orwell’s “1984”):
Q: Is there one lesson from the Great Warming for humanity and its future?
A: I have thought for a long time what that might be. In the first two decades of this century, people and their political leaders, prodded by the quisling scientists, acted as though they could enjoy the benefits of modern science while rejecting any scientific findings that they found inconvenient to their ideology or their pocketbook. For their folly, we have paid a terrible price. A great twentieth-century scientist summed up the lesson, all we really needed to know, if four words: ‘Nature cannot be fooled.’
Excerpt: In fact the overwhelming majority of research supports the reality of climate change — a 2013 review of nearly 12,000 scientific articles published between 1991 and 2011 found that of those that took a position on the issue, 97.1 percent endorsed the idea that climate change was real and human-caused. The study concluded that papers disputing climate change were “a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.”
“The World Bank also warned when it released its report that ‘we’re on track for a 4 degree Celsius warmer world [by century’s end] marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity and life-threatening sea level rise.’ And the report cautioned that, ‘there is also no certainty that adaption to a 4 degree Celsius world is possible’… And keep in mind that these are the optimistic scenarios in which warming is more or less stabilized at 4 degrees Celsius and does not trigger tipping points beyond which runaway warming would occur. Based on the latest modeling, it is becoming safer to assume that 4 degrees could bring about a number of extremely dangerous feedback loops… Much more frightening than any of this is the fact that plenty of mainstream analysts think that on our current emissions trajectory, we are headed for even more than 4 degrees of warming. In 2011, the usually staid International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report projecting that we are actually on track for 6 degrees Celsius — 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit — of warming… The accounting giant PricewaterhouseCooper has also published a report warning businesses that we are headed for 4 degrees Celsius, or even 6 degrees Celsius of warming.” ~ Naomi Klein p. 13-15 of Introduction to This Changes Everything
Wikipedia: A National Geographic Channel TV programme,”Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet” was produced after the book by author Mark Lynas (which attempts to summarize results from scientific papers on climate change) won the Royal Society Prize in 2008.
“We are not idealized wild things.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Back in 2006, Dr. James Hansen, arguably one of the most important climate scientists in the world, warned us we only had a decade “to take decisive action on global warming and avert catastrophe” as NBC described it at the time.
“NASA scientist James Hansen, widely considered the doyen of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).”
Hansen said, “I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade, at the most.”
One way to understand our dilemma is to think of it in terms of a carbon budget. If we continue to burn carbon-based fuels and add billions of tons to CO2 to the atmosphere in a “business as usual” scenario, “Hansen said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and ‘we will be producing a different planet.’”
Hansen was warning us that it will take several decades to shift the world away from fossil fuels and that we must start immediately. His prophecy was ignored. We continue to ignore the world’s climate scientists who produce thousands of studies each year that paint a desperate picture of our climate future.
We force the planet to grow warmer each year as we continue to emit tons of heat-trapping gases, according to laws of physics that were first explored in the middle of the nineteenth century.
It is well understood now that the “cumulative carbon dioxide emissions related to human activities need to be limited to 1 trillion tonnes C (1000 PgC) since the beginning of the industrial revolution if we are to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 2°C. This is ‘our carbon budget’ – the same concept as a checking account. When we’ve spent it all, there’s no more money (and the planet’s overdraft fees will be much more significant than a bank’s small charges for bounced checks).”
As of 2011, we “emitted roughly 515 PgC since the industrial revolution, meaning we have already burned through about 52 percent of that carbon budget.
“Do the math, and the world only has 485 PgC left in the budget. This balance puts us on track to exhaust our remaining carbon budget before the end of 2045 under a carbon intensive trajectory.
“For context, consider Earth’s increasing pace of emissions: While the first half of the entire global carbon budget was used up over 250 years, the second half of the budget would be used up in only about three decades if emissions continue unabated.”
In 2006, Hansen warned us that our climate is like a giant ship on the ocean that takes time to turn. Or another suitable metaphor is an airplane that must begin its descent many miles from the airport if it is to safely land. The longer we take to wait before we begin reducing our emissions, the more likely we will overshoot the target and in effect, crash… (continues)
Democracy Now! – Rush transcript available here.
Three stories of our time (p.4-5)
In any great adventure, there are always obstacles in the way. The first hurdle is just to be aware that we, as a civilization and as a species, are facing a crisis point. When looking at the mainstream of our society, and the priorities expressed or goals pursued, it is hard to see much evidence of this awareness. We try to make sense of the huge gap between the scale of the emergency and the size of the response by describing how our perceptions are shaped by the story we identify with. We describe three stories, or versions of reality, each acting as a lens through which we see and understand what’s going on.
In the first of these, Business as Usual, the defining assumption is that there is little need to change the way we live. Economic growth is regarded as essential for prosperity, and the central plot is about getting ahead. The second story, the Great Unraveling, draws attention to the disasters that Business as Usual is taking us toward, as well as those it has already brought about.
The third story is held and embodied by those who know the first story is leading us to catastrophe and who refuse to let the second story have the last word. Involving the emergence of new and creative human responses, it is about the epochal transition from an industrial society committed to economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. We call this story the Great Turning. There is no point in arguing about which of these stories is “right.” All three are happening. The question is which one we want to put our energy behind.
by Miki Kashtan
The origin of suffering is attachment. – The Buddha
The Talmud tells us that in the world to come, everyone will be called to account for all the desires they might have fulfilled in this world but chose not to. The things we desire—the desires themselves—are sacred. Who put them in our hearts if not God? But we have been taught to be ashamed of what we want; our desires become horribly distorted and cause us to do terribly hurtful things. – Alan Lew, from This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared
Interacting with the World
If you are an activist or in some other way engaged with working to transform external reality, you may wonder whether this path would ultimately lead to apathy or lack of engagement with the world. What about children’s need for food or safety, for example? How can we not insist that these needs be met? Yet, even in this acute example, we can still see the difference between giving up and letting go of attachment. It is not about giving up on the hope for all the children in the world to be safe and have sufficient food. Nor is it about giving up on working to eliminate hunger and violence. Rather, it is about being able to tolerate internally the possibility—which is also the current reality!—that it just may not happen that all the children in the world will be safe and have sufficient food. If we cannot tolerate the possibility, then how can we have space inside to interact with life as it is? If our approach is based on what should happen, without this capacity to accept life, what would keep us from trying to force a solution? We have all seen so many historical examples of revolutions that turned into a new regime of horror. How will we ensure that we can sustain our vision and openness if we cannot tolerate what is happening and those who are supporting what is happening? To protect ourselves, we often turn away from the dual horror we need to experience to keep our hearts open. We protect ourselves from the horror of knowing that one child under five years old dies every six seconds, or almost 18,000 daily, from malnutrition and related causes (not to mention the effects of wars of all kinds). And we protect ourselves from the fear of succumbing to the anger and desperation that lead to re-creating domination and horror. Without the tools to keep our hearts open, many of us do, indeed, shut down and tune out the plight of the children so that we can even manage to continue with our own personal lives.
If, however, we remain open to the possibility that no solution will arise and at the same time continue to bring our heart and attention and action to working toward a solution, our work takes on an entirely different flavor. We work toward our dreams, we embrace the vision and our needs in full, and we remain open in the face of what is happening. In doing so, whether or not we have external success (and so far as I know, none of us knows how to move the world from here to where we want it to be), our work itself becomes a modeling of what the world could be.
Miki Kashtan, certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication and co-founder of Bay Area NVC, offers NVC workshops and retreats, mediation, facilitation, coaching, and organizational training internationally. For more information, visit The Fearless Heart.
4) Going Forth
“Trust is to a collaboration-based social order what fear is to an authority-based social order. Trust, then, is the glue that binds everyone together in a large-scale society or organization.” ~ Miki Kashtan (via The Fearless Heart teleseminar/blog), More about The Little Book of Courageous Living
Climate change leads some to a dark mental place, but for many there is meaning in resistance.
“Activism, for me, is essential,” says Columbia junior Elana Sulakshana, 22, who works with Columbia Divest. “It inspires and empowers me, and consistently motivates me to keep fighting.”
As Pope Francis writes in his recent climate-focused encyclical, “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”
Or as Beitiks puts it: “If you look death in the eyes and you don’t laugh, you’re kind of missing the point of life. If you do nothing, you’re also missing the point of life.”
Keeping Abreast: The Climate Agenda on washingtonpost.com
“Global change being brought on by the way we live and the size of the human population today is not unlike the impact of an asteroid. The difference is we know we’re doing it, we can measure the size of the impact that we’re creating, and yet we still find it very difficult to do anything about.” ~ Richard Leakey, Paleoanthropologist, Author of The Sixth Extinction
“I think that human consciousness cannot yet take this in, because if we are extinguishing that which has brought us into being, what does it mean about our how human nature.”
~ Mary Evelyn Tucker via documentary Call of Life
Climate Defeatism is as Much a Threat to Human Survival as Climate Denial – Part 1
In the next few years, human beings will have the choice whether, on the one hand, to preserve the better shreds of current civilizations or hold onto the possibility to found entirely new, hopefully better civilizations, or, on the other hand, to destroy the possibility for human civilization to continue and head towards human self-extinction. We possess then an awful and, for many, unwanted power at this time. We will be facing opportunities for growth and advancement while at the same time facing compromises that will leave a good number of people dissatisfied and unhappy, as happiness is now conceived. To opt for the first choice, humanity will need to set itself within a very few years upon a new evolutionary course that some may resist and that others may embrace… (continued – Part 1)
A philosopher of ecology, Joanna Macy‘s path wound from the CIA to Tibetan Buddhism, to translating the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that exquisite poetry as a lens on her wisdom on the great dramas of our time: ecological, political, personal. Now in her 80s, Joanna Macy says we are at a pivotal moment in history — with possibilities of unraveling, or of creating, a life-sustaining human society.