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i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
Well, here goes nothing...
6 months ago, i incorprated this entity. Time to really begin to try to "do something" with it.
So here's my plan: i'm going to do my best to regularly add content. Should you feel resonance w/what i'm trying to convey, and/or want to collaborate/participate, i encourage you to reach out by emailing me (contact info @ the top and bottom of this page). The option also exists for you to offer financial support. But that last is probably premature. It'll likely take me some time to (coherently?) explain my vision for what Emergent Ground, Inc. will be attempting to accomplish. My hope though is that my vision and goals will be shared by at least some of you. It's hard to know how things will eventually play out though. Perhaps i'll end up glomming on to one of your endeavors rather than attracting anyone who will want to join me...
At the heart of what i think ought to be done is to try and "redirect" the path humanity seems to currently be on.
There would seem to be so much grave dysfunction in how we, both individually and at a societal/cultural level, are existing. We are in conflict with each other, ourselves, and destroying so much in the way of what our planet can provide for us. Mostly in the name of "progress". Overconsumption is central. As are the behavioral patterns that encourage us to "feed our instinct for gluttony". And these patterns come out of, and result from, paradigms which ought to be serving us, but instead, most, if not all, of us, find ourselves subservient to. Yet it doesn't have to be this way. Change is rarely easy; yet it's almost always possible.
@ some later date, i may try to iterate over and thank all of the sources of inspiration that have led me to where i am now. But even before i explicitly do that, it's super-important to acknowledge that very little of what i'm trying to share, compile, aggregate, distill, integrate, synthesize, and/or curate is anything resembling "original". Even when constructing a garment or other object "out of whole cloth", one is still reliant upon the weaver, the threadmaker, and the producer of the raw material (whether woollen or vegetable matter), and even the planet herself, for providing the ecosystems in which the sheep, cotton, etc... were able to grow.
Why am i even bothering to do this then, if others have already shared the very same ideas i seem hell-bent on regurgitating? Mainly because there aren't enough of us listening and changing our behavior. But it is what it is...
All i can do is try. All we can do is try. Hopefully enough of us will. So that we can make a difference.
Are some of us in the already industrialized regions where humans live on this planet going to need to make significant changes to our behavior, perhaps in some cases, resulting in what might accurately be framed as a "regression" with regard to how decadently we live? i think this is quite likely.
But if we can reconfigure how we evaluate "status" in terms of ourselves and those around us, with an eye towards decreasing extravagence rather than trying to "signal our wealth" to each other by purchasing more fuel, land, meat, and other things that we don't really "need", then i think we have a chance at pulling our species back from the potential for destruction we seem destined to unleash upon the planet, each other, and ourselves.
i happen to believe that success w/all of this is tied directly into our understanding of how we humans react to trauma. So much is tied to our fears. Breaking the cycle (and not perpetuating it by "off-loading" our own trauma onto someone else (who will likely off-load it to someone else (potentially continuing ad infinitum...))) is possible. There's no reason for us to have to continue to inflict so much trauma on others. In the end, doing so really doesn't "help" us anyhow. And of course, whatever trauma we can ourselves truly process through, and/or help others process through, will mean that much less trauma-based "lashing out" occurring (decreasing the odds it'll end up coming back around to "bite" us in the future).
There's a question of course about where to start. i've got lots of ideas. Part of my plan is to share many of those ideas (and perhaps more that occur to me in the future?) here on this website: https://emergentground.org. And yeah, i realize that (assuming you're reading this not too long after i'm writing it) you're actually reading the content from a page delivered via a different URL than that one. So be it...
One of my really recent decisions regarding this entire Emergent Ground endeavor, and specifically concerning this "inception" whereby i share ideas via writing is that i can maybe (hopefully?) usefully drop a number of potential projects, tasks, ideas, and/or goals. You see, i have always found myself unable to stay fully engaged with pursuing any single idea i have long enough to see it through to completion. Instead, i've found myself constantly dashing off like a squirrel, discovering new, "better" ideas, each of which i also end up abandoning in favor of yet another...
So, as a way to "help me let go" of some ideas (in order that i might be able to better focus my efforts on either a single one, or a very small number of ideas that i will really have a chance to actually follow through on pushing forward and making significant progress on), it occurred to me, that i might be able to share in some detail each of the ones i'm *not* planning on working on right away (in the hopes that others might decide to?). In the end, even if nothing comes of doing this, all i will have wasted is a little time trying to explain myself, and it'll probably be worth making that effort (just in terms of clarifying more things in my own mind along the way as i try to coherently commit my ideas to prose).
It's all very tricky though. Many of my "ideas" have to do with making structural changes at the very foundational levels of our society. Not just with our patterns of behavior, official policies, and mechanisms of interaction/travel, but even @ the level of the very language we use to communicate. And so much of what i propose or offer may seem like "asking for the impossible". Yet i'm convinced that it's worth trying to effect change. Even against substantial entrenched interests, overwhelming odds, and/or all sorts of other potential challenges. Though i don't think all of what i suggest below (over the course of the coming days, weeks, months, and perhaps years) will be so Quixhotian in nature. But the first one definitely is. So let's get to it:
We need to drastically curtail how much effort, energy and funding we put into our militaries.
So much more benefit can accrue if we instead redirect most or all of those resources into solving important problems with creativity by expanding our vision. Explicitly building new, better ways of killing each other and training ourselves and others how to weild such tools is doing none of us any good.
The way we structure our economic systems constrain us into making specific choices.
There is no "pre-ordained" reason that we need to cling to any of the economic (or social?) structures that seem so tied into the current fabric of our lives. We have the power to change so much more than most of us are willing to believe. By valuing connection with other people over ownership, control, and material wealth, we will be able to change the world we live in a lot faster than we would have previously imagined was possible.
Finally (for today anyhow), all the complaining about the high cost of (any fossil) fuel is something which really bothers me. The more it costs, the less of it we'll collectively use, which is wholly a net positive. In my opinion we should all be encouraging our governments to tax these substances at much higher rates. Better that we have some chance of controlling where that money goes. In democratic countries, our opinions *do* matter (even if our power to actually force change doesn't seem as proportional as it ought to be), whereas we all know how and where BP, Shell, Exxon, etc... are going to spend the fraction of money we spend that makes it into their coffers: they're going to continue to keep extracting more and more from the ground, which will then eventually also be burned, polluting even more. Should we instead levy heavy taxes, the possibility exists that such income as that generates for governments can be directed into green energy alternatives, infrastructure improvements, education, and other positive uses.
There is so so so much more. But i'm thinking that this is enough for the moment. i didn't realize when i started writing earlier today, just how much this was going to take out of me. i'm not trying to whine, nor to complain. Just acknowledging. It's giving me a realization that i'll need to pace myself with all this, and bite off in small chunks as i try to share my ideas, concerns, fears, desires, and dreams.
Before i completely "wrap up" for the evening, however, i'd like to pull back a little bit and try to provide a bit more context. Future entries may look nothing like this first one. i may instead try to sink my teeth into a particular cultural pattern/meme and provide my own take (with no goal of "generating action items" for me, nor for others). i believe there is tremendous value in simply "sharing", so that others can react (and respond directly if they feel called to). Dialogue is almost always a really really good thing.
May you all be blessed to find you have the resources and are capable of meeting what comes @ you with integrity and fortitude...
So much cognitive dissonance!
Even though i only shared my above "soft launch" of this whole Emergent Ground Inc deal with 3 individuals after posting the above 2 days ago, i've still found myself 2nd guessing myself severely. But delving into the reasons why i have self-doubt and how it specifically manifested (and continues to do so?) is probably not a useful thing to add too much more about here. Really it comes down to a tension between wanting to share, yet lacking enough confidence to easily do so, mainly because there's also an "ask" (with the Patreon link) that just feels ridiculous to me, as if i have no right to do that, especially at this ultra-early stage of this endeavor. But whatever...
i think i just need to get over that.
There was another aspect of my "plan" that i disclosed above which (in hindsight, after i'd uploaded that first "version" of this page) also seemed very misguided. And that is connected to my intention to partially use this platform to "shed" ideas and/or projects i think are important, but am deciding not to pursue immediately. This now seems to me to be counterproductive. Why would i be telling you about what i'm *not* choosing to do, while simultaneously asking you to collaborate with me and/or support my/our efforts by financing "other" endeavors.
While it's not an ideal way to clarify, at the moment, i guess i'll nevertheless share something i wrote not quite 2 months ago (but haven't yet made publicly available). This page was intended to be a "stab" at what i've ended up trying to do here with the page you're reading, and Emergent Ground Inc. It has a few details about what i do want to focus on.
Maybe i should do more with these ideas i'm dropping/shedding? Though i'm not sure of this. In any case, with regard to what i wrote above about drastically curtailing military spending, i'm sure there are others of you who also think that's a laudable goal. And many have expressed this "wish" before me. Without adding any details about how to accomplish such a goal (beyond the obvious, which is that those of us who do feel driven to pursue the goal ought to find each other and brainstorm together and push against the entrenched interests who oppose this, via voting and activism of various sorts), it seems my "offer" is relatively content-less.
Despite my best intentions as i started writing this morning, i find that i'm still wallowing in self-doubt (and unhelpfully continuing to share details about how i'm trying, only partially successfully, to "cope").
It is what it is. And maybe this is some value here. Part of what i think we all do need to do is to understand how tricky it is to live in a world that seems to be taking us in a direction we don't want to go so inevitably. The challenge of course is to not just "coast along with the crowd". But rather instead to make a decision to try to help divert ourselves, our friends, and anyone else who's also interested in changing direction *towards* what we imagine might be better (rather than only digging in our heels in opposition to "the current reality which we find unacceptable"). In my view one of the biggest obstacles relates to our perception that the odds of succeeding at such an ambitious plan seem miniscule, or even non-existent. That should not stop us from trying. And i'm convinced that if some of us do try, that we'll be able to link up with others who are also making honest attempts to create change.
So yeah, this has been helpful to process through (as i've been writing it to you all). Getting back to the specific issue about decreasing military spending, i can see that i've probably already framed the "solution" sub-optimally. What we'll need to do is to find effective alternative ways to deal with conflict (as supporters of military solutions have long argued that we must have some ability to intervene when diplomacy and other non-violent attempts to solve conflicts don't seem to be working). Another component of the solution (in my view anyway) is to make the case that dedicating the resources that are currently spent building better, more powerful and "effective" weapons to educating ourselves and future generations, designing and creating regenerative communities, and any number of other efforts that will really provide a much better path forward.
Of course this opens up so much more in terms of where and how to proceed. The topic of education is a vast universe in itself, but i happen to believe that we have an opportunity to do so much better than we do right now if we rethink and reconstruct new patterns to replace what currently is being done. Opening the eyes of those we're trying to help educate (and that cohort must include ourselves!) to the true reality of our world, rather than having a system that so often seems designed to produce "compliant workers/employees" so that the status quo can be perpetuated...
Population growth is another daunting challenge. But as i see it, all these things are tied together. Education can hold the key here too.
There are a lot of topics that i'm quite uncertain about. And it may be that most or all of them will continue to confuse me and remain unresolved for the rest of my life.
What's on my mind has to do with opposition. In recent times (over the course of the last few years especially!) i've come to understand how much better is is to focus on, talk about, and do positive, constructive, and/or productive things. Yet i have this incredibly strong urge (in almost all situations when i "notice" something that seems suboptimal or wrong) to criticize. And focus on what i perceive as an "error" with a process, object, policy, someone's thinking, or really anything. Which leads me to then attempt to figure out (and inform others!) how to correct or fix what i think is wrong.
There's a problem with this though, and it has to do with the fact that the solution doesn't scale after a certain point. Which is to say that if most of us are concerned with trying to dissassemble and rebuild existing structures (whether physical, political, social, cultural, mental, or whatever other type of structures one can imagine), then that will mean there are fewer folks imagining and creating new things, ideas, etc...
There's so much value in accepting that what exists isn't perfect, and then, instead of trying to fix everything, working to create "more aligned" entities and/or systems, and allowing the new to supplant the old.
This can get really tricky though. Some ways in which existing strutures are broken really do merit us working @ fixing things instead of looking to the future. There is no bright line either, making it obvious whether a problem is important enough for us to devote time and energy to addressing it, or if we ought to simply try and work around it as we look forward, imagining and manifesting newer, better answers. My belief is that each of us needs to make our own determination. And likely we'll disagree in terms of what specific issues we find worthy of devoting our own time and energy to working on (whether trying to improve/rebuild existing structures, or envision and create new ones). The important thing, i think, is to do the best we can to honor the decisions of others. Not trying to prevent them from working on what they feel called to try to do. And/or encouraging, perhaps even providing support, when we are able.
Still, it gets even more complicated. As we will inevitably find ourselves confronted with other people who are working in a direction which appears to be directly against what we think needs doing to make the world a better, more tolerant place. When anothers effort seems to be explicitly at odds with respecting the humanity of a particular person/group, and/or their effort is a destructive one (in terms of natural ecosystems/resources and/or other valuable entities, either natural or human-created), then we really do need to oppose and do our best to prevent them from making progress as best we can. Don't we?
If we decide the answer is yes, the question then becomes how we can be most effective in dealing with such situations and the people whose actions and perhaps ideas we take issue with.
Many of us find satisfaction in berating and trying to shame those we disagree with. And perhaps that reaction does have a role to play, as shame can in fact be a super-powerful tool given the fact that we humans have evolved to be highly social creatures. What others think about us does matter. However, i'm not sure that this ought to always be the go-to answer when confronted by someone who we perceive to be acting "unethically" and/or in a way that doesn't appear to be "good".
While it's hard, and i don't think everyone needs to do it, i believe there's potentially real value to opening up a dialogue and doing our best to try to understand the person or group which is acting in a way that we find so offensive and/or anti-thetical to our beliefs. Though it may be that no matter how much effort we put into this endeavor, the desired result (of convincing them to cease what they were doing/planning) simply won't come to pass.
i don't know the answer. But probably criticizing the actions of others who are also standing in opposition and trying to prevent harm from being done is not a good idea. Maybe that person or persons who is using a tactic i don't approve of will be successful.
Ultimately, one of the toughest questions here relates to whether and when physical violence might be appropriate. Again, i have no answer really. Yet continuing to ask questions and do our best to think through these issues, both in the abstract, and related to very specific (perhaps with regard to very dangerous situations), would seem to me to be a worthwhile use of our time and effort...
OK, after getting three more "free form" posts in, i think i'm ready to give my original vision a shot.
You see, i'd had this idea that it might be productive to "riff" on some of the memes that it seems have become so popular on various social media platforms. In that, even when i didn't have an "idea of my own" that was calling me to write about, that i might use the opportunity provided by someone else sharing a particular expression/quote/whatever.
So today i begin. i've not reproduced it here in all caps, as the original image showed the words, but a facebook page called _Philosophy, Poetry, and Art_ surfaced the following, which the meme-maker attributed to Helen Keller:
Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature, nor do
the children of men as a whole
experience it. Avoiding danger is
no safer in the long run than
outright exposure. Life is either
a daring adventure or nothing.
This is so important, @ least in my opinion.
Though an awful lot of "modern" living, culture, society, seems hell-bend on denying the reality of what the incredibly insightful Ms. Keller offers to us all. In that so many of us are trying as best we can to exert control. Even in domains that we have no right to ask for our preferred outcomes to manifest. Which is most of them. Sure, it's fine to make plans. But we need to fully grok that we're only "guessing" what might happen, no matter how diligently we strategize. And yeah, some of that will mean great sorrow, as what we like to call accidents take place, perhaps maiming, traumatizing and/or killing us and/or our loved ones. But it's all part of the flow of spacetime.
Better to see each moment as a gift.
Though with some of them, pain will hitch a ride along...
Breaking format in a new way this morning. Instead of picking a new topic, i feel called to continue on w/the Helen Keller quote (and the associated idea(s) that have been similarly expressed by so many others as well, though she put it really succinctly, phrasing the conundrum in a super-excellent way).
It'd been my intention, in any case, to append more, as i'd stopped rather abruptly and i definitely didn't feel like i'd finished. But as the day wore on, i found no impetus to write more.
After a good night's sleep however, i'm finding that there's quite a bit that i do want to add...
Fear would seem to be a key. So many of us are so scared of "what might happen" that we strive to create situations, as best we can, that we think provide that elusive security. Whether or not we're able to succeed, we often do succeed at convincing ourselves that we've done so, and/or that we've "found" the answer, in securing a predictable future. But of course this reality that we create in our heads does not align with the external world that really exists "out there". And there's so much more harm that comes of us distorting our perceptions and beliefs so that we can try to "feel" secure. At heart, what we've created is delusional thinking and fantasy. Perhaps happenstance won't break our illusion immediately. In some cases, the other shoe may not drop for quite some time. But that doesn't change the fact that our understanding of the world around us and how it works is not aligned with the true nature of things. And damage continues to be done to our psyche(s) as a result.
Many of us actually find comfort in our fear.
Perhaps not consciously. Though some of us are aware that we are taking solace in latching on to our fear. After all, it provides us something to focus on. As we struggle valiantly to fight against what scares us, trying to plan out ways that we will not have our fears manifested in the future. But of course all this effort and attention being applied to what we don't want to happen keeps us from working towards creating other possibilities: visions of an imaginative future full of potential, and not constrained (often severely!) by our apprehension. In the end, what we are scared of happening might or might come to pass. But all the worry ends up being paralyzing, and limiting us so much in terms of how we behave, think, and what we are capable of accomplishing.
Trauma is also central. Even though our experiences (in terms of what qualifies as traumatic) vary widely from one of us to the other. But most or all of us have experienced trauma of some sort or another. And those events tend to lock in our fearful state and/or tendency to react w/fear. Evolutionarily, all of this makes sense. Yet we can understand our own patterns. Modern life, interacting with so many more humans than evolution prepared us for, holds all sorts of ways that induce flinching, as we encounter situations that, while mostly being non-life threatening, can still tap into our social nature, which again is a gift of mammal, primate, and human evolution. So much fear of being outside the in-group, which, long ago, for our ancestors very well could have meant a life threatening danger, as our very survival depended on having others around us, collectively supporting each other and providing for at least a (perhaps small?) measure of that elusive safety and security. All of our signaling to each other, and displays of status, are tied deeply into our sense of identity/self, in that we are attracted to high status individuals, both reproductively, and also in terms of desiring to be part of their in-group. @ some point in the not too distant future, i'll likely try to write out more of my views on status (and how i envision a possible path forward that will be an improvement over what we look up to in terms of traits/behavior of other people), but doing so right now would result in a tangent diverting me too far afield from the Hellen Keller quote above that i want to continue to expand upon.
In the process of elevating our fear to the degree which we usually do, with the result being that we take actions to explicitly try to address that fear and not allow what we're scared of to manifest, there is a pattern which is reminiscent of what i wrote about a few days ago having to do with opposition. It's not an exact instance, but the similarities are close enough that it seems worth pointing them out. The takeaway being that we are mostly better served by concentrating on what we might build rather than attending to what we seem to so desperately want to prevent from taking place. Not that prevention of harm has no place. i just happen to believe it should be secondary. In my view, our primary focus ought to be envisioning possibilities for progress, regeneration, sustainability, and creativity which we then work on manifesting, transferring what may exist initially only in our imagination, outside, into the reality of our cultures and societies.
While i'm no expert on Buddhism, it seems to me that one of that spiritual tradition's central goals, of shedding our attachments, is quite relevant to this discussion of fear, uncertainty, and how we relate to our inherent desire for security. Because what i've been trying to describe here would seem to relate directly to attachment. In that, we seek to attach ourselves to a particular future course of events. One that is safe and secure. A fool's errand. Such a path doesn't exist.
So why not embrace the adventure aspect! Lean forward into the unknown. Embrace uncertainty. As, by doing so, we align our thoughts, beliefs and ideas with how things really are...
It was actually a full day-and-a-half-ago when i composed a substantial part of what is written below, intending to add to and/or edit it further yesterday, and then post.
But i didn't do that yesterday (nor really anything substantial on the computer @ all).
In part, i was "ashamed" of what i'd shared, thinking it had maybe gotten too personal, and that i'd revealed more than made sense about me. Or maybe more than i was comfortable with. But upon reflecting further over another 24+ hours, i'm @ a point now where i feel the right thing to do is to not flinch as a result of possibly oversharing. The fact that it "hits so close to home" is probably a good reason to want to share it. Now to edit/add more before i post...
So yeah, how is it that i determine the difference between a desire and a true need. This question has several different dimensions. In some sense, what's most important is whether i'm capable of restraining myself in terms of pursuing some desire. If not, then it's not a matter of just wanting, but rather an uncontrollable urge. Compulsion is also a good label in these situations. From the inside, it may feel like a need to me, as i have to have it. In the end though, it's all about my ability to manage my own emotions. For they are what gives the power to my compulsive desires, and may end up preventing me from being able to override these core drives, instincts, and/or attempts to attain instant gratification.
It's important to be able to step back and try to look at the situation from a less personal/intimate perspective. Doing so brings a completely different breakdown between desires and needs. So little falls on the true requirements side. Almost everything i have to ask a question about qualifies as a desire instead. Only a few things are really needed:
Maslow did a better job of iterating over them than the attempt i just made.
- sufficient food
- minimal shelter
- a certain amount of beneficial social contact with others
i'm relatively poor @ delaying gratification. If there's an opportunity to feel good sooner, i'll usually take it. With the end result being that i often feel like i'm battling against myself. Knowing that i don't need to eat (or whatever) and yet finding that i'm unable to stop myself, or even wait. Bringing food into the picture (instead of trying to eschew actual examples and make the case for need vs. want in an abstract way) really ratchets up the complexity.
i just don't seem to be able to lean in to my hunger, and allow it to just be. Most of the time it's not even a physiological hunger. i'm also still in the relatively early days of trying to successfully manage my emotions. Not that i haven't been trying my whole life, but i wasn't using strategies which had any chance of success at all until a couple years ago. There's so much to be said for just "sitting with" my discomfort. If i can keep from turning away, i'll almost always find that the emotional intensity subsides, usually fairly quickly (as long as i stick with the feeling and refrain from "flinching").
The emotional hunger is a tough one though. For so long, one of my go-to methods of "turning away" from strong emotion has been to (over)eat. Again, it seems quite clear @ this point that what i really need to figure out how to do is to "sit with" my discomfort, even when it's manifesting in a way that feels like hunger.
Another way i've turned away from strong emotions is by reaching out to others, often quite clumsily. Nevertheless, these attempts qualify as my way of trying to fulfil the 4th and final "true need" from my very short list above: seeking connection socially.
What has often made these attempts clumsy is that i've usually taken what i now realize w/the benefit of hindsight is a very strange path, towards my goal of finding someone to connect with. You see my goal is almost always not just to connect superficially, but to really establish a truly deep connection. And the way i've often gone about it has been through writing. Quite similar to what i'm doing right now, though not "publicly", but rather in a communication to one or more specific individuals.
The end result was almost always a tremendous degree of oversharing. Which of course often had the result of not "connecting" someone to me, but instead pushing them away. Despite it hurting every time my long plaintive emails would receive no response @ all, my "internal justification" for what happened seemed to be that i was taking solace in "weeding out" a person who i now understood wasn't a fit in terms of being a candidate for the truly deep connection i sought. Rather than share even more now about how i understand my past (espcially my childhood) relates to all this, i think i'll pull back from my desire to overshare. Which i'm finally able to actually do (instead of feeling a visceral need to do so which i'm powerless to stop myself from following through on).
This meta-example, of my tendency to over-share while i'm right in the middle of (at least partially?) actually doing exactly that, really helps me to put the more "basic" and fundamental other issue, relating to my inability to control my urge to overeat, which i started writing about ~36 hours ago (and then felt self-conscious about, not sure i wanted to follow through on sharing that w/the entire world).
But yeah, it's interesting how things turn out. Over the course of the last month or so, i've really been trying hard to curb my eating, and to "sit with" my hunger, instead of giving in and feeding my emotional discomfort. Mostly successfully. However, after writing above, explicitly rehashing a lot of what i've been thinking about, and trying to use to motivate me to keep up the determination to succeed and bring myself down to a healthy weight (which will take quite some time no matter how good i get @ refraining from overeating), i completely abandoned my commitment yesterday @ a family barbecue, literally gorging myself in a way i haven't in quite some time. i paid for this last night with indigestion induced insomnia during a number of the wee hours. But there's nothing for it really. i just have to try to hop right back on this horse (my metaphorical steed of restrained eating).
What i can do is to try to process and understand better. i've done a bit of that (journaling privately while i was up super-early this morning with a stomach ache), and i think it's been productive. Whether it will help the next time i feel drawn to "let go" of the discipline that i know i need to maintain to get healthier and lighter is of course still an open question. There are details (that i will not be sharing here) about why yesterday in particular was such a challenge in terms of my desire not to overeat being in conflict with my apparent need to do so. Very strong emotions (though perhaps mostly manifesting below the surface of my consciousness?) were of course involved.
i think that's mostly enough on need & desire. @ least for now. Likely i'll come back to it, as it does seem to be quite a conundrum that i would be well served by understanding a lot better than i do today.
There is another topic though that i feel called to write about before i "finish up" and post today. And that involves the date. While today is the "official holiday" (and so, one of the reasons why i'm able to devote so much time to writing here, since i'm not @ work, and instead enjoying a day off), it was of course yesterday that was actually Juneteenth.
Not very many years ago, i was not aware of the significance of this date.
In my view, our country and the world are made so much better by bringing this to everyone's attention. The legacy of slavery is not one we should try to deny, suppress or whitewash. We need to own it fully. As it's historical fact.
It's incredibly depressing to me that so many (mostly conservative/Republican) people seem hell-bent on fighting against openly discussing these uncomfortable truths. Critical Race Theory has now been presented as something that it never actually was, as defensive people who call themselves white all try to pretend that racism "only exists in the past". And unfortunately, they're succeeding to some degree. With their distortions having "taken root", allowing people who haven't been exposed to the truth (about what Critical Race Theory actually is) to join this battle against it.
Systemic oppression is real.
Only those w/power can oppress others.
Economic and cultural/societal power are by far the most common types that are being exploited in order to oppress.
But there is power in words and ideas too. And it seems that many are very worried that "losing control" of the historical narrative will result in chaos, and/or perhaps more fundamental "losses" for some of us who call ourselves white.
This attempt to deny the reality of the past is no way to proceed however. @ least according to the way i personally think. Instead, what we ought to be doing is diving into the myths about the real pros and cons of our country (the US), as well as the way our broader cultures and societies worldwide are currently structured. We are so desperately in need of significant/substantial change. Continuing along the road we're currently on will only result in our legacy being that we've destroyed so much in terms of opportunity our children, grandchildren, and their descendants will have. Much less than what is and was available to us and our ancestors.
Deeply studying how we and our ancestors have gotten so much wrong (not just with regard to race and slavery) provides us a potential we need to make the most of: to not repeat these mistakes, and to do better. Pretending that the history of the US was better and less toxic than it actually was will result in a regression. Making things far worse, instead of allowing us to improve things.
Those of us who call ourselves white need to understand that not all of the beliefs we still carry with us are meritted. Many of us are still holding onto racist ideas, while simulataneously insisting that this is not true.
The proper response to someone calling me a racist is not to reflexively deny. Instead, i serve myself by introspecting. And asking "could this be true?" Then i can try to figure out how it came to pass, and do my best to correct my thinking...
i'm having more in the way of hesitations, 2nd-thoughts, and/or self-doubt.
With this endeavor, journaling here publicly i mean. In the way i am, as if i think there's enough value w/what i write that perhaps some of you might be willing to actually gift me financial resources due to...
Due to what? My insight? So much imposter syndrome here. But it is what it is.
i watched ContraPoints's take on Envy beginning yesterday and then finishing up (it's almost 2 hours long) just an hour and a half ago. Really illuminating. Somewhere around a year and a half ago, it was apparent, after a conversation w/my excellent psychiatrist, that i had no idea that envy differed from jealousy. Now i think i mostly get it.
Natalie (ContraPoints) made a good case as for why envy ought not to be thought of in a positive light (even if it does have a "use" with regard to @ least potentially putting some constraints on the flaunting of wealth, though she readily admitted that in modern USian society, this is not really a strong motivating factor, and my not restrain very many rich people @ all). While i was fully with her on all of the arguments she used, i found that i didn't totally buy her argument with respect to jealousy potentially being more of a (possibly?) positive force, in that it could induce use to feel greed, which might motivate us and/or generate ambition in us.
But this has long been one of my sensitive spots. Certainly it's hard to argue with the contention that our human instinct to feel greed in many ways fuels capitalist economic systems. Yet (while admitting that a lot of good has come from such systems in the past despite their faults), i can't help but believe that we do ourselves a disservice by elevating greed to such a lofty status. The drive to compete and win (inherently therefore making someone else lose) is one that i don't think we should be blindly encouraging/supporting/admiring.
On the other hand, here i am again where i really don't want to be: criticizing, critiquing and pointing out flaws, rather than proposing a solution.
Not much of a solution to say that we should not be greedy or capitalistic. Especially when our instincts pull us towards such behavior in so many cases (though it likely is a widely varying degree to which each different individual may respond this way).
What's the answer then? I cultivate love and connection of course. But it's hard to wrap them up so neatly and create a viable economic system (the way that capitalism, jealousy and greed can be "packaged" together so cleverly).
That doesn't mean it can't be done.
If i didn't believe it was possible, i likely would not be writing here to you all right now. But the challenge is significant. We humans seem to mostly crave simplicity. There's an elegance to the way capitalism leverages the primal human drive towards greed that is fairly easy for almost anyone to understand.
How we can leverage our drive to love each other, to connect with each other, to be compassionate, and to uplift those who are struggling rather than just being glad we're doing better than they are, will not be an easy solution to find, create, build...
There are so many tropes/memes that connect motivation to do and produce with this desire to compete, and peace love and understanding with laziness, sloth, indolence, etc...
How to effectively craft a better way of interrelating with our Earth Mother (and all of the rest of Her human and non-human inhabitants) that inherently attempts to diminish oppression, corruption, domination, pollution, extraction and brutalization? i don't yet have the answer(s). But i'm quite convinced that we can make significant progress if we open our eyes and minds to trying to better understand what really motivates us (and not just what we believe motivates us because it's part of the story we've always heard from those around us).
In the US, well over half a decade ago, the "hippie" paradigm seemed like it might make some headway. But the way the counter-culture was itself countered, by painting the flower children as unmotivated, unmotivateable leaches on the "productive" members of society, ended up mostly succeeding in sapping the movement of much of its power, despite the gains made in terms of anti-war sentiment, and on the civil rights front.
There's more i want to say about another aspect of this whole dynamic, but i'm not sure i'm yet able to articulate it properly, as i'm still exploring my own issues relating to these topics, but let me try: the use of mind-altering substances, and the way we hippies (actually i'm a bit young, and really a 2nd-gen hippie) went all in with regard to utilizing consciousness expanding chemicals didn't help us to make the case that we felt so strongly needed to be made (in terms of turning society/culture away from the abyss we seemed to be headed for). It's sort of weird, as alcohol had been tolerated, and even embraced by "the system" long before the 1960s, despite the serious negative aspects of that particular drug. i don't yet understand how it came to pass that social drinking (other than during those few years of prohibition) had been so completely accepted, and not seen as the vice that entheogens, cannabis, cocaine, narcotics, and other substances all came to be seen as.
Or maybe i am starting to see (though only as i try to write down my thoughts for others?).
The word vice is key to my understanding. Because with alcohol, there was always an assumption that lay underneath popular understanding: that the weak (and only the weak) couldn't handle drinking. Anyone with sufficient strength would never be susceptible to addiction. As the story went at that time (and to a large degree, perhaps as it still goes now?): only those who lack discipline and/or are morally/ethically compromised will end up as drunks or addicts.
Legality played a bit role here (and still does?). In that so many align their morals with what's legal.
As i suspected might happen (once i tried to go off on this drug/alcohol tangent), i've not managed to write as coherently as i'd like to be able to. While there are a few threads that i feel could be tied up (were i more clever, evolved, and/or wise), unfortunately, it seems that today, i don't have the ability to do so.
Still, i'm not going to edit out the 2nd half of what i just wrote. Perhaps it will be of value to someone. But yeah, it really is (@ least in my mind) far less significant than what i began with.
So if you happen to have ideas, thoughts, or even fleeting glimpses about how we might fashion a better structure on which society and culture can flourish, please do reach out to me, as i'm very interested in solving the problem of jealousy and capitalistic greed. And i've got a far better chance of succeeding if i'm not left to try to work everything out alone. By the path of true collaboration, our problems will best be addressed...
Yesterday, legal access to abortion became far more tenuous in a number of locations in the US as a result of the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling.
So much to contribute about the topic of reproductive rights for women. Though really, as a man, my opinion shouldn't even matter. Nevertheless, given the reality that other men have been the ones making these laws/rules, it does seem important that i share openly how i feel.
But yeah, mostly it's that in all cases, the woman impacted directly needs to be the primary decision maker, though of course if she wishes to seek the counsel of another (whether her doctor or anyone else), that's also totally up to her. However she wants to handle her decision about whether or not to bring a pregnance to term really is up to her. Full stop.
Yeah, i get that some people believe that it's wrong to abort a fetus. My answer (and i feel so strongly about this!) is that if you're a person who feels this way, there's a perfectly acceptable answer for you:
DON'T GET AN ABORTION!
Additionally, of course it's your right to share your opinion(s) on this (and/or any other?) topic with whoever you wish to. But i will do everything in my power to prevent you from imposing your beliefs on others. Certainly, legislating away access to reproductive health services, and/or taking actions that put up not-strictly-legal barriers to women receiving such treatment is totally unacceptable.
Even though the reactions to yesterday's SCOTUS decision are still incredibly new, fresh, and raw, i've found myself in full agreement with those who've made the case that this particular ruling is essentially a strike against all sorts of human rights, which extend(s) far beyond the reproductive rights issues which the case was directly about.
There are several other issues about which i also feel very strongly:
It's possible that i've omitted one or several more that really should be added to that above list, but for the moment, it's good enough. Please understand though that i'm concentrating right now on making a more general point (which is less about which specific details are entangled with each other, and more about trying to convey the interrelations between all of these issues).
- rights for people who are members of any number of disenfranchised groups: POC, LGBTQIA++, women, the poor, etc...
- protection of ecosystems, species diversity, natural entities, and really the entire planet Herself
- exploitation in all forms (whether of humans or non-human entities)
- openness to ideas which may (at first?) not seem to be in alignment with my own beliefs and the ethics/morality that i think we humans ought to be using to direct and/or limit our actions
- the necessity to substantially change (maybe totally rebuild?) our societies and cultures in order to be able to gift as good a future as we possibly can to those who come after us
But yeah, reproductive rights are definitely key to all this, as they provide a really great example of what we need to be opposing: the effort to control women's bodies, primarily by men.
As a person who very much embraces the left politically, i find myself more or less in agreement w/most positions put forth by others on "my side" of the cultural/societal/political divide, which seems (right now) to be as significant as it's ever been in terms of a chasm between two opposing poles. And that whole dynamic (in that it's based on the binary) really irks me. We're far more diverse than the framing of "either liberal or conservative" would seem to be indicating.
My own perception is that there's far more unity on the right. Which perhaps has been one of the main reasons why they've been able to so more effectively push their causes through the legislative/judicial systems recently. Yet, our tendency to be more tolerant of dissent on the left really ought to be a strength, not a weakness.
Still, we (on the left) are not perfect, often arguing openly amongst ourselves about less important, more "ticky tacky" distinctions that we find prevent us from "closing ranks" as the right seems to have been able to do, allowing them to win elections and impose what is essentially minority rule.
So what's the answer? i don't have any kind of magic solution. Yet, i feel deep in my gut, that we will eventually be able to prevail, by coming to terms with our own issues around tolerance, diversity, acceptance, and how best to proceed with pushing forward an agenda that will ultimately be of more benefit to not just ourselves, but to almost everyone (except perhaps for (only some though, of) those who are currently ultra-rich?).
In terms of what we can do right now, without necessarily "seeing the full path" ahead of us that will lead to success, i advocate just continuing to remain true to our tolerance of diversity of opinion. We need to build allyship with people who may only be aligned with our own perspective on a limited number of topics. As much as we can, we need to respect the humanity of those who express and advocate for opinions that we believe are destructive, rights-denying, and/or capable of causing suffering.
This is where it get super-hard though. There's no clear line here. And we each have the right to make our own decisions about who we will and won't respect. Still, it is quite obvious (to me @ least?) that devolving to a stance of "othering", falling into the trap of defining binary conflicts, such that "if you're not with us, you're against us", and dehumanization of people we define as "opponents", will not lead to the outcomes we seek.
Even if it appears to have worked so well for US Republicans!
Sinking to their level and fully engaging in a battle against them, deciding to use the same tactics that they've applied so successfully, will not result in victory, even if we do somehow end up "defeating" them.
The trick is to understand our human attraction for simple explanations, while simultaneously living in a world that is far more complex than we realize, admit, acknowledge, recognize and/or are able to perceive. There's no way out of this dilemma but through it. We need to help all of our siblings understand this conundrum: that our oversimplified "solutions" to perceived problems almost always have profound deficiencies that would be quite obvious to us if we could find a way of detaching from beliefs that we hold which are rooted in fantasy, trauma, and/or delusion. Some are intentionally spread by others with self-serving goals, but many of our beliefs, ideals, ideas, and ethics are just 'there' within us, due to how we've chosent to react to and/or try to 'explain' our own lived experiences.
Finally, i'm very much aware that my writing today is in some ways quite paradoxical. After all, i've shared my own opinions as if they're fact above, perhaps, seeming to indicate that "anyone who's capable of thinking clearly" would inevitably agree with me on the number of different topics i brought up. In some ways, i find what i've done to be quite distasteful. Certainly it may be possible (likely?) that some who read what i've written will come to the conclusion that i'm arguing for some sort of "groupthink" whereby we all have to go down a checklist of different issues, and feel cognitive dissonance about any divergence of opinion from 'what ought to be accepted by all'.
In the end though, i think it all makes a pretty good example of just how complex all of this is. There would seem to be contradictions in what i'm trying to put forth. Perhaps under some framing(s), that critique is a totally valid one and the contradictions are real. Yet, ultimately, realizing and understanding this is really proof that overly simplified models lose a tremendous amount, often eliminating from consideration, truly important aspects of reality. Physics has proved that matter and energy exhibit both particle-like and wave-like characteristics. This also would seem to be a contradiction. How can light be simultaneously a wave and also individual packets we call photons? i don't know the answer to this one either (my best attempt would be to try to argue that our human brains are limited in how much we can possibly understand of reality). But what i am able to learn from this is that i shouldn't be afraid of complexity, nor should i limit my acceptance/understanding only to phenomena which appear to be completely free of contradictions and/or paradoxical "results".
Seems i've ventured pretty far afield. But yeah, i do think it's all related...
In the short term though the obvious answer (@ least for me?) is to do the best i can to work to support reproductive freedom of choice (and the potential exists for me to do far much more than i've previously done on this front!), both legally, and also practically, for individual women (and trans men, and non-binary folks) who will be in need of assistance as a result of yesterday's ruling.
As always, if you've any specific ideas about how to "get where we want to get to" more effectively with regard to the somewhat amorphous "goal(s)" i hinted @ above, or even if you've got critiques about what i've written that you'd like me to be aware of, please do reach out...
Despite the fact that the news from the US supreme court keeps getting more and more dystopian, for the moment, i'm not going to process that here. After all, it's not like any of this is really that surprising. It is super sad and frustrating though.
The topic for today has to do with music. And recreational drug use/abuse.
Sunday was my brother-in-law's 60th birthday, and to celebrate, a bunch of us joined him @ Tanglewood to catch _The Mavericks_. What an amazing show they put on! i'd never heard of the band, but Raul Malo is the real deal. Truly a phenomenon.
Anyhow, what i came to realize (though not fully until after getting home that night, and i've processed more in the subsequent days between now and this morning) is that other than 2 shows in recent years, i'm pretty sure i only ever attended one rock concert without getting high and/or drunk (King Crimson on the Pier in NYC during the summer of 1984, as i took a beloved older female friend who really was somewhat of a surrogate parent figure, trying to repay the favor (she'd taken me to so many classical music concerts by then) by sharing some of my favorite music w/her). Though it's hard to know for sure. There may possibly have been one (or a few?) more that i attended sober. If that was the case, it was not by choice (and i would definitely have preferred to be stoned and/or drunk).
The interesting thing is that my love of music preceeded my love of cannabis. And i started drinking (in my early-mid teens) a few years before i started getting high. Due to an event that i'll not go into here, @ the age of 18 (after having only been smoking pot and hash for just over a year), i ended up quitting both for a period of several months. Gradually i started getting high again, @ first only a little bit, now and then. But eventually i ended up smoking up as frequently as i'd been prior to that incident which resulted in me suddenly becoming (@ least temporarily?) abstinent. Never did really go back to drinking much at all, though i didn't officially ever "quit". In the intervening decades, i'd estimate that i've gotten "drunk" fewer than 2 dozen times (though there have likely been close to a hundred (or more?) times when i've had 1-2 (occastionally 3) drinks (usually wine coolers)). Usually after a drink or two, i'd remember that i don't actually really enjoy the feeling of being drunk anymore, and so i'd not have any more (often being annoyed that i had even tried again to drink). Often i would find myself quite surly, not enjoying the mild buzz, but instead being very frustrated @ how much i didn't like the feeling anymore.
But i went all in with the marijuana. Deciding to get high by myself was a significant step (and maybe marked crossing the threshold to true addiction?). Eventually (years later) i was mostly getting high alone.
For decades, i got high multiple times each day, pretty much every day (every now and then i'd stop briefly, usually when traveling away from home, as i had no desire to risk arrest, but upon returning home, i'd immediately smoke enough to make up for the "gap" right away).
For the sake of brevity (and also for other reasons) i'll omit a lot of relevant details, but the "turning point" came on the summer solstice of 2014, when i got high one final time; feeling quite certain that i'd be able to "get clean" following that "last goodbye" to my magic dragon: Puff, though i actually was "helped" in my initial effort to stop completely by "keeping open the option" that maybe someday, i'd be able to get high again. My hope was that i'd be able to do that "only very infrequently" sort of how i've managed to do w/alcohol for many decades now.
@ this point, i'm pretty sure i'll not ever try to get high again. It's unlikely i'll actually ever choose to drink again either, though that's not totally off the table (like cannabis is for me currently, as well as until i die). But that's not all that relevant, so let me get back to the topic i started out trying to write about...
Entheogens are also relevant. It was so long ago, and of course the drugs i was taking @ the time don't assist with allowing memories to be super-clear, but tripping and listening to music was a life changing experience. As were a number of other activities that became so much more resonant/intense when i engaged while on a hallucinogenic trip (whether LSD, mushrooms, or ecstasy).
Certain music seemed to me (and many of my friends?) to be "designed" to listen to stoned and/or tripping. Yet now that i'm clean and sober, i still get tremendous enjoyment listening to it even if i'm not high.
Interestingly enough, for quite some time, i also believed that my ability to
play music was (substantially?) improved when i got high. You see, @ one point in my life i was a fair to middlin' trumpet player. But in hindsight it seems likely that my "perception" was illusory. In any case, as i fell under the spell of the Sacred Herb (tm), it seemed so important to "fully embrace" Her power that i ended up doing a bunch of stuff, that, with the 20-20 vision of hindsight, really does seem quite ridiculous. One example is that i use to draw a large "hit" of marijuana smoke into my lungs, and then, instead of exhaling in a regular way, i would blow it into my trumpet through its mouthpiece. Which would allow me (after i'd cleared all the smoke out of my lungs and taken a "fresh" breath) to play the trumpet and have smoke float out of the bell. Of course it also really "mucked up" the inside of the trumpet, as the smoke made it really dirty really quickly and created a layer of black "sludge" in there which was pretty nasty. Looking back, that was not a smart choice. But.... When one is high, one doesn't always make the best decisions.
But where does this belief come from? That mind-altering substances "enhance" the experience of listening to (and/or playing?) music. In some part i think it has to do with a need for something "extra". As if i don't (or rather didn't?) trust my bare naked soul to be able to fully appreciate music's glory and beauty without assistance...
i'm working on this and getting there. But those deeply grooved patterns of my past behavior do seem to exert a substantial pull. Hopefully the next rock concert i go see will induce a bit less tension than i experienced this past Sunday. Fully being aware of everything i've just publicly journaled about will hopefully help a lot...
So yeah. i do now find that music is capable of generating and/or tapping into tremendous intensity within me. Though it's still often a mystery, as the effect isn't predictable. Sometimes i'm really moved, and other times i'm not (even by the exact same song/band). Lots of other contributing factors, likely what i "bring with me" from the immediately previous seconds, minutes, hours and days, as well as how much sleep i've gotten, and probably a number of other variables.
Did the drugs open up some channel w/in me that i wasn't emotionally health enough at the time to be able to open without assistance? Is that why it seemed so wonderful to get high and listen to music? Maybe though a better framing is just that the drugs distorted so much. Allowing me to escape reality. Perhaps the attraction was to that fantasy, which was so disconnected. Did the music then "become/create" a false reality? Is that why it felt so intense? Because the drugs had permitted/allowed/caused true reality (with all of my worries and concerns and the "messiness" of life) to "melt away", become inaccessible due to avoidance/suppression, and/or shrink to insignificance?
It may be that i never know the answer(s). Still, it's interesting to ask the questions and try to figure out how all this relates, as i think there's a connection deep into an awful lot of other aspects in regard to how i relate to the world around me, other people and even looping back to myself...
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
So i managed not to follow through on my original intention w/writing here. In that my plan had been to get something posted @ least once a week. It wasn't until i just began writing a few minutes ago that i realized it's been well over a week..
And in fact, the delay stretched out much longer, as it's now been another 2 1/2 weeks since i originally wrote the above and most of the below (but since i hadn't considered it finished back then on July 10th, i never uploaded it, though my intention had been to get back to it much sooner than i am finally now doing in order to complete as best i'm able and then post...)
Worldviews, perspectives, etc...
So tricky. While there is some aspect of me which understands that my own life experience has led me to have no fewer errors in my thinking than any other random person, it seems there's still incredibly substantial resistance to me fully integrating that fact and truly accepting it as base reality. With the end result being that i have this almost constant drive/need to explain stuff to people about how the world works, and specfically, how what they believe, think, or understand is wrong.
On some (many?) topics, my urge to do this is incredibly powerful, as i seem to be certain that i have important insight that has a fundamental truth embedded directly in it. And it seems unbelievable to me that any other person with an open mind who is willing to learn could possibly reject these self-evident truths.
Interestingly enough, while there are a number of disparate topics around which i feel very strongly about the inherent accuracy of my thinking, there is quite a variation among these different issues/topics in terms of how someone i know disagreeing w/my position makes me feel in terms of emotional stimulation.
For instance, for whatever reason, even though i think it's an incredibly important issue (that we really should be working so much harder to address), i'm relatively sanguine about the fact that many people seem to believe that climate change is not real and/or that it's not something we ought to be worrying about. Yet on other issues, especially those which strike me (and again, my belief about this is so strong that i consider it fact) as promoting the continued marginalization and/or oppression of traditionally disenfranchised populations (women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA++ folk), i find myself filled with rage that can so easily get directed at anyone who is not in full support of (the people who i see as?) the victims of colonialism, patriarchy, systemic discrimination, structural oppression of various sorts, and all sorts of other inequities, perpetrated (again, mostly as i see it) by a ruling class made up almost entirely of cis-het men who call themselves white.
But of course it's more complicated than that (and i'm responding only to the very end of the last sentence of that last paragraph w/this attempt to correct myself). In that many others (many in terms of raw numbers, rather than proportion of the population which has been dominant and refusing to embrace true equality of opportunity/status for all) also join in supporting the colonialist, capitalist, patriarchal, relatively dominant paradigm(s) , even if these colluding, supporting individuals are not cis-het men of European descent. These allies (on what i consider the wrong side) add their efforts (and perhaps more important, a patina of legitimacy?) to the still mostly traditional ruling cohort of (or @ least the group of folks who truly weild power, even if they don't all occupy official roles in the hierarchy of infrastructure which governs) cis-het men who call themselves white. These folks who hail from outside of the group i am a card-carrying member of (in terms of inherent identity, not in terms of my beliefs/values) contribute to the continued imbalance (as i see it) in terms of the freedom and power able to be exercised by various contingents of any given society, culture, community, etc...
That was admittedly a tangent though (perhaps an important one nonetheless?). The real crux of what i was trying to address (and process through?) involves my visceral reaction to those who i perceive as preventing others from exercising the same rights they themselves exercise. i absolutely recognize that i immediately want to other such people. And it's quite easy for me to really feel hatred towards them for what i perceive as their intolerance.
Whereas my perspective about those who would seem to be standing in the way of climate solutions is quite different. Mostly it's sadness that i feel here, though there's definitely some anger. But nowhere near the level of anger which i feel towards people who espouse viewpoints that appear to me to be perpetuating oppression, intolerance, and/or discrimination of/towards individuals/groups which i feel deserve to have the same opportunities and privileges that i myself have been and continue to be able to take advantage of.
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
And again, it's been much longer than i'd originally envisioned and intended between posts.
However, i'm finally getting around to following through on a goal which has been an intention from before this site was even fully formed as a plan.
You see, i am a facebook addict. But unlike so many others, my view of that platform is not wholly cynical. i of course (like most, it seems) do see plenty of negatives. Yet i also see quite a few positives. And for quite some time i've been saving up memes and posts that i've come across there, believing that someday i might eventually use some of these for writing prompts. And when i began this endeavor here on this particular website earlier this summer, it was part of my explicit plan to use some of these memes in that fashion.
So now i begin...
Here is the source of this initial attempt. As it's text only, here is the transcription of the meme for those who don't wish to go look @ the original:
We create a fixation with
worldviews, conspiracy theories,
spiritual frameworks and other
paradigms in order to hide the
unconscious childhood patterns
driving all of that. We are quite
literally transferring unconscious
projections of mom and dad onto
reality and then fighting or chasing
our own projections
So, after preparing to come out here into the woods, where i'm intentionally off-line as i compose this post (which is how i like to write if i can), under a blazing, one-day-past-full moon, just before dawn, it's occurring to me how daunting this task is.
i don't know Scott Kiloby. But wow is this quote intense!
(@ least for me)
In November of 2009, just over 7 months after my own mom died in a car accident, i had my first psychotic break. My dad, who was on his way to Chicago to visit my brother and his husband, immediately turned the car that he and his wife (who had really become a 2nd mom to me) were in around. And came back to assist.
This gets tricky, as it doesn't feel like the right time to delve deep into that story (though i've written about it so many times already).
But what i've learned in the intervening decade-plus (there was a 2nd psychotic break in June of 2014, which again was very much centered around still-unresolved grief over my mom's death), and especially in the last few years, is how dysfunctional i have been my entire life. My projections related to my parents, and of course reflecting back on myself, are central here.
In the last couple years, and more especially in recent months and even weeks (that last perhaps explaining why i've not managed to write and post here due to so so much intense, more personal writing/journaling), i've been explicitly opening myself up as i work as hard as i'm able bring my own childhood patterns fully above the surface of my conscious awareness.
But this is very much only a first step. As i'm eventually hoping to dissolve some of those patterns, and to restructure the patterns that i am unable to eliminate (which may end up being most of them?).
The beginning of Scott Kiloby's quote is framed excellently, in a way that resonates deeply for me. As my own beliefs, ideas, thoughts and feelings are definitely tainted with fixation.
While i'm hesitant to share details publicly @ this point, with regard to specifics involving my childhood experiences, i do plan to try to do that eventually. But right now, i'm still in the middle of working through so much, that i have a strong suspicion that i'll come to quite a different (and hopefully more accurate and/or thorough?) understanding around the events and interactions i had when i was young, and how those experiences have affected me ever since.
i will however share my belief that what i ended up dealing with in school and even moreso on the school bus, especially in my very early grade school years, was highly relevant. As a kid who'd until then been raised in the NYC metro area, and whose mom was quite leniant, the rural, insular, Catskill-area town we'd relocated to was not, shall we say welcoming, nor receptive to my (admittedly fairly obnoxious?) brash personality, laden as my speech was with a thick accent that really separated me from the way everyone else there spoke.
It wasn't that there was overt violence really. But it felt like the threat of bodily harm from other kids (especially the older ones) was very present.
For reasons i only still partially understand (though i feel like i'm in the process of making progress towards a more comprehensive understanding), my parents weren't able to guide me in a way that allowed me to work through these issues. As a result i really did feel like an outsider. For years and years. Maybe i still do.
In some sense, many of my (re)actions, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas are driven by a fear that others could/might belittle and/or ostracize me. One coping strategy that i learned was to isolate. i've always taken solace in nature. Being out away from people with the plants and wild creatures that are so much less dangerous to my psyche has always allowed me to center and ground. In fact, i find the wild to be so nourishing. It's probably no exaggeration to state that i've found my salvation outdoors, away from civilization and people.
Yet we humans are inherently a social species. And so, much as i dream about wanting to live off completely apart, i, like anyone else, need people.
There's much much more...
Just a few moments ago though, as i was composing the above, i found myself on the verge of totally abandoning this effort (wanting not to finish and post what i'm in the process of trying to write).
So i think i'm going to honor the urge i felt then (though i did manage to override the strong desire to rage-quit this effort this morning). Let me try to come up out of the depths a bit, and re-orient towards some of the other content i feel is so important in the above Scott Kiloby quote.
My attempt to land on worldviews, spiritual frameworks, conspiracy theories and other paradigms that i can embrace as static and unchanging truths has been a monumental effort for most of my life. For a long time i'd assumed i'd been successful, believing that facts supported the way i perceived and understood the world.
This of course was not the case.
On an intellectual level, i've understood for quite some time how much knowledge and making sense of the world are always in flux. There is no end point @ which any of us will ever be able to say: "i have it all figured out, and there's no need to learn anything else."
This was, however, very much @ odds with the way i felt. After all, i was able to marshal all sorts of evidence that so obviously supported the vision of the world i had and my particular perspective.
What i now believe (though it continues to be a challenge to get my body, soul, spirit and being to embrace this!) is that there are never any hard and fast rules. Life is messy and so complex. Context is all. Which is not to say that it doesn't make sense to adopt some sort of paradigm which can provide one direction and structure. The really important thing though is that, as much as one is able, it's better to make such paradigms, beliefs and worldviews provisional.
@ any given moment, it may be that it makes sense to trust our beliefs with a very high level of certainty. But that does not mean that we should adopt a position whereby we know we are 100% sure of their accuracy.
Not an easy task...
Navigating this balance, and being able to keep one's mind truly open to the possibility that even the most deeply held core components of our being, on which of course, our worldview(s) very much depend, is no small feat.
Yet the alternative is fixation.
Scott Kiloby has so very eloquently explained why this is suboptimal.
And for that i am thankful...
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
it's again been longer than i originally intended since i last posted...
And i never announced that last post @ all (not to anyone). Given that probably nobody is just randomly coming back here to Emergent Ground in order to see if i've put up new content, what is directly above has not been seen (@ least as of the time i'm composing this post) nor read by anyone other than me. And frankly, i'm not all that enamored of going back to read it now (as i suspect it'd make me cringe).
Interestingly, as i start to write this morning, i'm not @ all certain where i might end up. i only have the vaguest notion of what i even want to record/share...
So much is alive in me. Many patterns which have been present for my entire adult life and also prior well into my childhood (i think?) are continuing to recur. On the bright side, i'm now more aware on an explicitly conscious level of many of these patterns. Still, i find it frustrating sometimes to not yet be able to change the way i react to certain stimuli. Though mostly i'm trying to bring a spirit of curiosity instead of self-condemnation...
This past weekend, i ended up engaging (again) with an AI related event. Having worked (now well over 2 decades ago) in the field of artificial intelligence, and explicitly begun to attempt to re-engage almost half a decade ago (attending a couple conferences in person, and a few more events on-line), it's fascinating to me how stimulating such engagements are. But not in a straightforward way.
Upon trying to process in the aftermath of my first psychotic break, almost 13 years ago, i found myself recognizing (quite clearly!) that i had a pattern of mood-swings which occurred quite often, and which i termed my emotional rollercoaster for quite some time as i thought and wrote about this phenomenon. For a while (though not recently), i associated that tendency with me potentially being bi-polar. But my current psychiatrist has disabused me of that viewpoint (though she and i are still both not yet certain whether i actually am bi-polar or not). Anyhow, the relevant point is that for many years, i very reliably would find myself in these cycles which have a period of 48 hours. Meaning, i'd have an up day, then a down day, then an up day, then a down day, etc...
For quite a length of time, i also saw such patterns as dangerous. In that it felt like i was not in control when they were happening. Sometimes (and when this happened, i would really devolve into serious fear!) the ups would get progressively higher. When the lows got extremely low, that was disconcerting too, but it didn't register as dangerous (though it often felt unbearable).
You see, there was such resonance with both of my psychotic breaks and the pattern of my moods directly beforehand (my 2nd psychotic break occurred just over 8 years ago). And (especially after i'd had a 2nd one) i really didn't want to have another psychotic break. Mostly for the sake not of my own sanity, but because i was absolutely terrified of putting my family through more pain and suffering, dealing with me losing my mind again.
Also 8 years ago (no coincidence here @ all, this event was directly tied to the aftermath of my 2nd psychotic break), i was finally able to do something i had wanted to do for a number of years prior: cut down on how often i smoked marijuana. And i didn't just cut down. i stopped completely (given my attempts to just cut down had never worked, i decided to try the cold turkey approach).
In hindsight, i suspect that accomplishment (getting clean and sober) had more of an impact on allowing me to be able to not have a 3rd psychotic break than any other action i could possibly have taken. But that's sort of a tangent to where i'm trying to go.
Nevertheless, giving up the weed smoking didn't come close to solving all my problems. In some ways it brought a number of issues into my awareness more clearly, as i recognized so many different aspects of who/how i am which really involved quite a bit of dysfunction.
Rather than bog down in details about all that (perhaps @ a later date i will do this?), i'm going to try to push on towards making the point i've been aiming now for a number of paragraphs (seemingly w/o getting any closer!)...
In the 2018 i attended the AAAI fall symposium in Virgina, due to having jumped on the Common Model of Cognition working group email list almost a year prior and realizing that there was a track for this specific topic there @ that event.
My mood oscillated tremendously over the several days i was @ that conference. The first day i was so amped up it was ridiculous. Just buzzing w/excitement internally to the point that it was spilling out of me profusely. i'm normally not all that outgoing of a person, but that initial day of the event, i was going out of my way to introduce myself to everyone i met and trying to strike up conversations, being super-excited @ being back into engaging w/a topic i'd not worked on in almost 2 decades. As often happened (and this still happens, though not to the same extent), i then had all kinds of trouble sleeping. Given that i'd also had trouble sleeping *before* driving south to Virginia, my worry about potentially losing touch w/reality was growing...
The 2nd day of that symposium in Virginia, i was depressed as fuck. Wondering what had possessed me to make such a fool of myself with all the imposing myself on other people by rudely trying to interact with them when they probably weren't that interested. i think i even ended up skipping a few events and going up to my hotel room to nap that 2nd day.
But after catching up on enough sleep, the third day found me again amped up and engaging, excited about the opportunity.
So yeah, that's all back-story. Each event relating to artificial intelligence i've attended since (both on-line and in person), i've exhibited the same pattern of fairly radical day to day mood swings.
What's sort of weird is that over the course of the last few years, this pattern of mood swings from day to day has all but vanished from my life when i'm not involved in actively engaging w/others in person or on-line on the topic of artificial intelligence. It does happen very occasionally, but (i think in large part due to my awesome shrink and the psychotherapy i engage with weekly as she helps me understand myself better) for the most part, i'm no longer experiencing such mood swings. When they do happen now, i'm often able to process through highs and/or lows much more quickly (not needing a night's sleep to "reset" and allow me to transition from one state out of it, and then finding i've gone too far and am back in the "other" state).
Yet, this weekend, it happened again. The first day of AGI-22 was Friday, and unfortunately i was unable to engage @ all due to my day job taking precedence (this constraint is what prevented me from traveling to Seattle to engage in person as well). So Saturday was my initial contact with a group of individuals who share my passion for this topic (a number of whom i've gotten to know in recent years, and a few of whom i've known for much longer). And wow did i find myself catapulted into the stratosphere mood-wise! Just incredibly excited, so much so that my cognitive function was almost certainly slightly impaired. Yet not immediately. And so my first contact with the conference content was quite productive, and stimulated me even more. Though i was bouncing off the walls, getting distracted by the accompanying youtube chat instead of really leaning into what was being presented directly (which had far more value than any side-bar discussions).
i struggled mightily to sleep Saturday night, essentially failing to get anything close to what would have been minimally adequate. And so my cognitive function didn't really "recover" immediately. But what did happen is that i sank into a complete funk by mid-Sunday morning. Just feeling like i was existing in a vat of thick molasses. And really being so negative about all the goings on. Self-doubt (what am i doing, thinking i can engage in something that is no longer my full time job and which is obviously a field which requires so much thought, energy and time in order to make progress in), criticism (these people are all dreaming, aren't they? is there any basis in reality to believe that any of what is being proposed is even possible?), and the like...
But i still tried to engage. As i stated @ the top of my writing this morning, i do now have the gift of awareness about my patterns. And so even in the middle of my funk Sunday i managed to realize that i was @ the low end of a cycle. This allowed me to (fairly reluctantly!) tune into some of the goings on. Though i missed a couple presentations that i wished i'd caught live (my hope is that i will be able to find the recordings later and catch up by eventually watching). i also did grab a nap @ some point Sunday, which helped a lot (even if it meant i was missing content that i would not be able to engage w/live as it was being presented).
Monday (so only 2 days ago now), i'd actually scheduled a vacation day so that i could engage w/the final day of the conference. And my mood was again elevated (i had succeeded in getting enough sleep Sunday night). Though strangely i decided i needed to run an errand that took me quite a distance from home in the middle of the proceedings. But i listened to the audio while driving around. And in fact that was itself enlightening. As i realized how much more i was able to tune in without the distraction of looking @ someone's slides. Though of course, every now and then there were details i missed by not being able to see a slide.
So i managed to relate most of (more than?) i wanted to. Yet in some sense that was all a preamble to my main point (which is still not incredibly clear, even to me, so please bear with me).
It relates directly to this endeavor here.
What i'm finding that i'm asking myself has to do with another pattern of mine that's been present for most of my life, and, up until 5-10 years ago, had become a serious dysfunction due to how prevalent and all-encompassing it'd gotten. The dysfunction level has not vanished, but i think it's decreased...
The pattern is that i tend to have pipe dreams that far outstrip my realistic ability to follow through and complete. Many many ideas. About how i'd love to do x, y, z, a, b, c, i, j, k, etc... And it used to be that i really believed i was going to complete any given project as i envisioned it. For reasons i only partially understand, i seem to be quite addicted to beginning things. My follow-through generally sucks. And i'm not wanting Emergent Ground Inc. to be just another failure of this sort. Yet...
So what am i doing w/this AI stuff? My vision of this project i've more determinedly set out to engage with does not have an explicit AI component.
Also, i decided to approach someone i'd just met recently to ask him if he'd give me bass lessons. Which would be awesome, but here i go again, just piling more and more tasks onto my life. What my psychiatrist has helped me to understand is that i am probably doing this in large part to try to protect myself from possible failure. However, i intellectually understand how important it is to try (and if failure happens, so be it! that is also a learning experience). But if i just abandon each potential attempt and shift over to beginning another and repeat that pattern over and over, then i can't actually fail. Nor can i succeed.
Still, i've got a certain amount of time and effort i can devote to endeavors which are not related to my day job nor necessary for me to do in order to fulfil various family obligations. And i'm finding that i really do want to focus. Yet i seem to still be mostly unable to do so.
i mean maybe i do want to cultivate my musical creativity by trying to re-engage w/bass playing and learning more. And it's not a horrible idea to try to figure out how i might be able to contribute to AI endeavors.
But i also want this Emergent Ground stuff to actually be what i don't set aside. So why can't i figure out how to buckle down and do research on hydro-power so i can make this happen? it's OK if i fail! But i need to try in order to even have a chance of that occurring! And it's possible that if i try, the worst case outcome will not be what comes to pass. Hell, i might even succeed...
It's hard for me to know whether there's context somewhere far above for those of you who might be confused by my sharp turn in my writing into incoherence.
Likely, this is the result of my lack of self-confidence.
So let me tackle that head on now.
This project here (of which the website you're currently reading is really all that actually exists yet), which involves me having incorporated as Emergent Ground Inc., is (currently?) composed of three components:
So there, i've actually spelled it out as clearly as i've been envisioning it (for the better part of a year now).
- My writing, which i see as valuable on a number of levels, though so far, i've not marketed it heavily yet, with the result being that it's not generating income. And of course this is perhaps another way my self-doubt is reinforcing itself, as i sort of meander around a bunch of topics (usually quite incoherently!) and then get to be sad that i haven't yet produced anything that anyone else finds valuable enough to shoot me money for.
- Engagement with Rights of Nature activism in a way that has as good a chance as i can possibly make it have in terms of actually creating substantial change in the way we view our natural world, legally, morally, and relationally. i see this as potentially a super-important component of fundamentally changing our societies and cultures. Obviously climate change is @ a crisis right now (considering how little is changing vs. how much needs to be changing if we're to reverse the devastation which has already begun to occur and which is about to get so much worse). My view is that it's only a specific instance of a much larger set of problems however. And i see granting legal status to natural entities as a good way forward.
- An attempt to resurrect the small mill which sits only a few dozen yards down the street from my home. This is a dream i've had for decades. The outflow from Lake Wononscopomuc is not going to produce a tremendous amount of hydropower, but i'd love to manage to harness what it could provide...
Does it really make sense to try to add on 4th (engaging w/trying to help whatever AI evolves to do so ethically? and/or make whatever AI does come into existence better?) and 5th (trying to get better @ being able to create music) items? Even if i don't glue these things to this Corporation, it would seem that there's a significant downside of just doing anything with either or both of them @ all, in that it will take away some ability for me to engage with any of the three above components of my currently envisioned idea about how exactly i might be able to make some sort of a difference in this world that would seem to be desperately in need of humans behaving in a more coherent, non-destructive way...
There was more i wanted to get to when i started writing a bit ago this morning.
But i think this is enough.
Or maybe not quite enough.
i think it's necessary for me to acknowledge how much my engagement with the recovery community in the last 7+ months (and this engagement has become even deeper and more extensive in recent months) has allowed me to further process. Not that i'm done yet (obviously i'm still a hot mess! i mean, look @ what you just read!). But i do see the light @ the end of the tunnel now. And i'm pretty sure it's not a train coming from that direction that's about to run me over. Though one never knows...
Anyhow, delving into my childhood, and understanding patterns of trauma (perhaps the hardest part of this particular dimension is not just realizing, but fully believing that there's no competition here: the fact that others have experienced trauma that is far more horrific than my own does not invalidate what i went through), has allowed me to catalyze the learning i was previously engaged in, through Collective Presencing, work with Schuyler Brown, and all of the mental health work i've been doing for well over a decade with a number of talented and knowledgeable caregivers, foremost among them, my wonderful current psychiatrist (who i will not name here publicly).
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
i don't really have any clue @ all about what i'm going to try to write about now.
There are things churning inside me that i'm uncomfortable writing about publicly.
i'm here @ the base of "Mt. Riga" w/my faithful hound Teyla (who's no longer a young pup) as i compose these words. Just a few hours beyond exactly one week ago, i'd come out here w/her before dawn. And she attempted to attack a porcupine, which didn't work out well for her. Though in hindsight it could have been much much worse.
i know how much worse it could have been, because my first dog, Czela, who was so important to me as i was growing up, got into many many porcupines over the years. Seemingly worse each time (w/more and more quills).
So yeah, as i remembered having to leave the garage (where Dad had worked patiently on Czela, removing quills with pliers) because i just couldn't bear to here Czela yelp in pain with each quill being pulled out, last week's event with Teyla certainly did reach down into my soul immediately.
So interesting (in hindsight, though not so much @ the time) how i reacted. Wanting to quickly make things better for Teyla. And so feeling a burning desire to try to get as many quills out of her nose/mouth as i possibly could, as fast as i was able. Beginning by just the light of the vehicle headlights. And then when i realized that i needed better light, driving quickly down to the town hall (where there was a streetlight), instead of all the way home.
i'll not dive into a detailed description of the rest of that morning from that point. But one of the salient points is that there were still several hours before our veterinarian's office would open up.
i'd also gotten myself confused about recent vet visits and information i'd received. It's our cat Raffy, who's quite a bit older than Teyla, who was in just a bit ago (though Teyla was also). And i'd been informed that Raffy is old enough to make anesthetizing him a rather risky venture (this in relation to presumed future dental problems he may have).
But in my panicked mode a week ago, i "latched on" to the idea that Teyla (who is no spring chicken either) might not survive anesthesia.
In the end (after my very patient vet assured me that she's very very healthy for a 12 year old dog, had excellent blood work just a month ago indicating no dangers @ all), Teyla was anesthetized briefly so that he could remove all the quills which hadn't broken off without traumatizing her (what i'd done when trying to remove quills before the vet's office opened).
So all's well that ends well. 3 quill stubs did pop out over the following days (which i was easily able to remove). How to use this incident so that i can recognize my own trauma responses when they occur in the future, that's the question...
Rather brief entry today.
The consensus term (from psychiatric medicine) for what i experienced in late November of 2009, and then again in early June of 2014 is of course psychotic break.
i had (even before the 2nd one took place) pondered whether framing such events, thanks explicitly to Christina and Stanislav Grof's book, titled _Spiritual Emergency_, as spiritual emergence might be a valid, and helpful way of looking at such a transformative happening. It's pretty complicated though. Without @ least one person totally committed to that viewpoint (and preferrably a whole team!) to help one through such an occurrence, it's far more likely, @ least in our modern culture/society, which has lost touch with the roots Nature provides us that allow grounding to occur through our environment and tribe/community of those family, friends and colleagues closest to us, for the only viable answer to be powerful medication (vitamin H, as the more cynical mental health workers like to refer to the go-to answer that was utilized in my cases, and those of so many others), followed by an (often long, protracted) attempt to get the individual who has experienced a break with/from reality to "wind it all back" and try to reintegrate the pre-break relationship with the world, society and culture.
Which is essentially an impossible task.
On the other hand, with gentle guidance, what can happen if one is lucky, is to make one's way back into a relationship with the world, culture, society, community, city, and/or life around one that is more stable.
The question i've had right from that first break that happened to me in late November of 2009 is whether such a solution is, in reality, anything other than essentially being willing to put blinders back on that will hide enough of the insanity inherent in our modern society and culture, that we're able to function in a way that no longer makes waves.
My experience was that, despite obviously also experiencing true delusions, an opening up occurred during my hell-ward descent into insanity. And even after returning to a non-psychotic state, i have continued to believe that such a reaction (losing one's mind) is actually a perfectly "appropriate" response after realizing just how fucked up humanity actually is, and how badly out of wack our power structures are. Despite all the progress we've made and are continuing to make. Much much longer ago, i watched Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, which provided me with such a clear vision about how misguided the direction we, as modern humans, have been going in is. Certainly since then, very little has improved, and mostly we've seemed to have just accelerated our path towards disaster/destruction.
So yeah, i do subscribe to the viewpoint that going insane is an appropriate reaction for anyone who manages to pull back the veil which so much of our status quo consumerist, late stage capitalist engines of progress really need to use to hide what's really happening from all of us who are participating in, enabling, and actually helping to cause and/or generate outcomes that are worsening w/every passing moment.
So much for brevity. It appears i'm incapable of restraining my inherent tendency towards long-winded-ness. Oh well.
But i still haven't gotten to what i wanted to share initially. Which is a very short description/framing of what i now realize happened twice to me (once in 2009, and then again a 2nd time in 2014). So i'll close with it today:
What i ended up doing, both times, was destroying my ability to tolerate reality.
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
So i actually wrote a post yesterday but ended up not uploading it. As i didn't feel right about it a number of hours after composing it (despite having every intention of sharing it with a specific person and the rest of the world).
i guess maybe that's a clue. Should i not write to specific people here? As that's what i'd done, essentially composing a letter...
Hard to know. In any case, i was infused with a tremendous amount of emotion. And what i realized afterwards, as i (@ first reluctantly) decided not to upload what i'd written, to this totally public platform here, was that there'd been so much emotion driving me, as i wrote, that the promises i'd wanted to proclaim to my friends, loved ones, and the world, were not actually intentions i'm currently capable of following through on. And i find that i'm deeply saddened by not being able to live up to the ideals that i so want to be able to live up to...
Still, it's better to be realistic i think. And to not push the limits too far. After all, i'm realizing how important self-care is. There are problems in this world that feel so enormous and important to me (@ least as i currently exist) which perhaps might have the capacity of fully dislodging my connection w/consensus reality. Having had that happen 2wice before, i'm probably right to be trying to err on the side of caution. So i'm trying not to beat myself up too badly as a result of being unwilling to pick up the baton offered me by N Friday night, a young man from the Bronx who certainly framed things in a way that really stresses the importance of us all doing everything we possibly can to carry out his sibling Griffin's vision, of trying to bring peace, compassion and love to the fore in every interaction each of us has every moment of every day, and also to really work for change...
Anyhow, i'd not intended to do more than give a brief introduction to a super-meaningful quote from Edgar Cayce that i found in my inbox when my insomnia brought me a wake an hour or so ago. But as usual, it appears i'm totally unable to resist being overly wordy...
Here's the Edgar Cayce quote:
Life is, in all its manifestations in every animate force, creative force in action...
Should any of you wish to donate in Griffin's memory, you can do so by using venmo: @rememberinggriffin
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
My emotions have been surging in a way that perhaps has never happened before (in my adult life anyhow?). Not that i've never had feelings that were this intense. But what's been different is that i've managed mostly to "be with" the sensations in my body, as uncomfortable, tension & anxiety inducing,
That above paragraph was written very close to a month ago, but i never came back and finished the post i'd apparently been intending to write (about emotions, apparently, and perhaps other things as well...).
i also had an idea just a day (or maybe as many as 3?) ago, about something which seemed like it'd be a good idea to post here. But i'm no longer sure what the content i felt so resonant w/writing about actually was... Obviously the lesson is: next time this happens, @ least make myself some notes, instead of allowing whatever topic(s) i find myself dwelling on to potentially fall out of my memory (perhaps forever?)...
But i do have a topic that is also i think worthy of writing about, and so, as i battle insomnia (well, i'm not battling right @ the moment, rather, i'm giving in to it, in the hopes that after brain-dumping here, maybe i'll be able to get more sleep before morning following my closing up this laptop and going back to bed to try).
That topic is spirituality. You see, most of my life i was either an atheist or an agnostic. i'm not sure which, and when pressed, it was common for me to quip: "i'm not sure i care whether i'm an atheist or an agnostic." (with the implication being i was definitely one or the other, or some combination of the two) But in 2009, that very much changed. 2 events contributing:
In April of that year, a car accident took the life of my mother.
In June of that year, amidst tremendous grief that was in the process of taking over and totally changing my life, while celebrating my brother's wedding in San Diego, i had a conversation with my aunt Barbara. Barbara's husband had been taken from her a number of years prior due to him perishing while engaging in one of his very favorite activities: flying his glider. Apparently there was a mechanical issue with a cable to one of the control surfaces which hadn't been detected, and which resulted in him plummeting to his death that day. i think in large part due to this history (which was recently enough in her past, even though several years before), Barbara was the one person @ the wedding who was willing to engage with me fully and hear me speak about my grief, in the midst of what should have been a celebration of life. The marriage ceremony was incredibly powerful (@ least for me? though i suspect for @ least some others too). My brother Dan and his wife Audrey now have a wonderful family of their own. While i was not religious @ all yet @ that moment in time, cracks in my atheism/agnosticism had definitely begun to develop, and were widening during the months since Mom's death. Interestingly enough, i'm realizing, literally right as i write this out, that the venue for that wedding played @ least as big a part in "changing" my perspective with regard to spirituality/religion as what i planned on (and will still follow through on) writing about with regard to the conversation an hour or so later down off the hill along the bay during the reception during my conversation with Barbara. You see, the marriage itself was in the amazing Mission Church there in San Diego, which is in a spectactular location @ the top of a hill overlooking much of the city and the ocean. There is also tremendous history which i (and presumably others?) could feel. Just tremendous gravitas, given that the church very much predated the city, having been constructed, and worshipped in and @ from the earliest days of the settling of the area by people of European descent. Hmm, it seems worth pausing and wondering why that ought to be so salient. It certainly seems likely that indigenous populations had been living in the area prior for much longer than those of us who call ourselves white have been there (since the Mission was originally established up until the present). And in fact this is important. Critically important. So interesting how all of this unfolds for me as i write about it. You see, there's no coincidence that i've wandered into the history of colonialism. And i can hold the tension between how so many indigenous cultures held (and the ones which have survived continue to hold) so much of the Natural Environment, Sacred, and the fact that the Christian denominations (especially Catholicism!) have done so much to try to purge alternative belief systems upon discovering them in their quest to convert everyone they came across into worshiping Jesus Christ as God. There is so much colonialism and patriarchal structure inherent in this pattern, which has repeated itself so many times in so many places and really changed the world (in my eyes, very much for the worse, given how less diverse we are as a human population vs. how diverse we might be in an alternative Universe which didn't see such an ascendency of Abrahamic religious traditions). Yet... It's impossible @ this point for me to condemn all Christians as evil. Many people who worship Christ are in fact wonderful exemplars of humanity, with their incredibly strong faith. Witnessing Dan and Audrey's wedding there (actually participating in it, as i was proud that Dan chose me to be his best man) in that so obvioiusly Sacred building/space, with all of the Catholic rituals and ceremonies, which felt to me so obviously real in terms of tapping into something greater than ourselves, i was pretty fucking overwhelmed. The agony of Mom's presence being limited to the beautiful purple dress she'd been intending to wear that day, folded neatly in a prominent, but appropriately non-central, tiny, sub-shrine (sorry, the correct word for this particular architectural artifact, consisting of a small arched depression in the wall of the Mission building itself as i compose this piece) just tapped pretty fully and completely in my over-bursting grief. And so, it was truly awe-inspiring to be celebrating the joyous occasion (again, i was holding the tension inside me of tremendously loving and appreciating everything that was going on, knowing that the blood relation who is now, and had been since the death of our mother only a couple months prior, closest to me), in which my brother, who i've always loved with all my heart, was in the process of joining the love of his life. Similar to the tension i felt about the role of the Mission Church this ceremony was taking place in (and its history simultaneously as a bastion of all the horrors which have been perpetrated on those who lived in the region prior to the influx of European descended oppressors, as well as a real guiding light for a tremendous number of individuals who Believe in the gospels, perhaps along with the message and/or the resurrection of Jesus, and have truly helped to make the world a better place despite the negative consequences their religious tradition writ large and small has done upon indigenous culture and the respect for nature which is far less prominent in Christianity). Anyhow, upon coming down off the hill to the beautiful restraunt with its patio overlooking Mission Bay, where we partied immediately afterwards, i was very relieved to have Barbara eventually make herself fully available to me as i attempted to process my incredibly intense emotions that seemed to be pulling me in so many different (and often what felt like opposing?) directions @ once. Amidst much laughing and drinking, were were having a pretty fucking intense conversation. i was in awe @ the power of her own grief, following being widowed, even though it'd been years in the past by then. She was still very mad @ her husband for having gotten into his glider that fateful day when he never returned home. Which really struck me. i didn't really understand that. But i was grateful for her willingness to share this, as it provided some solace to me as i attempted (in what would ultimately prove to be quite an unsuccessful try, though not fully until a number of months later) to process through my own emotional intensity, which really did feel completely overwhelming. In the course of this conversation, Barbara ended up sort of blurting out a mention of how powerfully Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking had effectd her when she'd read it. She shared a few details of what was in it, along with a general description (which i won't go into now, as any of you who are reading this are interested can easily find information and/or choose to read the whole book yourself) of the story arc of this very autobiographical (albeit for only a relatively small fraction of her life) masterpiece.
i ended up reading the book soon after returning home from California. And that was the 2nd factor (with the first being the death of Mom) in really opening up those cracks in my previous worldview/perspective.
Barbara had seemingly instantly regretted mentioning the book to me, which was (now in hindsight) incredibly prescient of her. It's hard to know (as she's also since passed away), but my aunt Barbara really did seem to forsee what happened (though whether reading that book accelerated my descent into true madness as i found myself unable to process my own grief), and she seemed to make every effort to talk me out of obtaining and reading the book (suggesting i instead wait some time before doing so). But i've always had an oppositional streak, and i wasn't any more interested in hearing and paying attention to her advice (especially after she'd revealed what was in the book, @ least in part), and so the way things played out made her protestations (about delaying my engagement w/Didion's story of her own husband's death and the aftermath of that event) moot.
There are plenty of other places on this website and others that are easily available if you want to know and don't already, where you can read what i've written about the following months and years. Should you not be able to easily locate any of those pieces, by all means, feel free to email me and i'll be happy to share a bunch of links to different reflections and/or recollections written between then and now. So i'm going to jump ahead well over a decade now.
In the spring of 2020, after watching people gather every morning @ 7am immediately across the street from our house for what i realized (within a few years of these gatherings starting) were AA meetings, i ended up wandering over and sitting in on my first ever engagement with the 12-steps. By then, i'd not been smoking pot @ all for almost 6 years. And while i'd drunk alcohol dysfunctionally for a number of years while i was a teenager, i'd ended up "switching over" away from alcohol to cannabis, and so never become a true alcoholic (or @ least not with the substance itself; i'm still pondering the various definitions of alcoholism, and it certainly seems possible that i am truly an alcoholic despite not ever having really enaged with that substance as my drug of choice beyond far less of a decade of (ab)use so many decades ago).
Interestingly, i apparently was quite affected by attending that first meeting in 2020, though i didn't remember that until sometime this year, when i discovered a complete re-writing of the 12-steps for me that i'd undertaken sometime shortly after attending that first meeting. However, within a few days, or perhaps a week @ most, Covid shut down pretty much all in-person gatherings, which included those AA meetings happening every morning across the street.
i've always been a morning person; the timing and location made those meetings quite convenient for me. And this February, when i noticed they were obviously again taking place (based on vehicles and people again showing up in the parking lot of the Mason's Lodge), i fairly quickly attended my 2nd Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Apparently something within me had "shifted" in the interim (of almost 2 years since i'd attended my first meeting). Or maybe, if the circumstances had been different, and covid hadn't shut everything down in 2020, it wouldn't have been all that long before i'd have gone back across the street to attend another meeting. But i suspect that there was real value to me waiting such a long time to go back into the rooms.
i've not stopped going back, attending multiple AA meetings pretty much every single week, sometimes many of them. Due to suggestions from people i've met there (many of whom i now consider very close friends), i also have begun to engage with 2 other sister 12-step programs: Al Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics, both of which have felt even more resonant than even AA did initially.
Within a month or two (given the suggestion, which seemed to be central to working the program), i did ask a guy to be my sponsor. And he's wonderful. i also eventually did begin to try working the 12 steps. But it's been slow going. In some sense i don't feel any urgency to go faster than i'm going now (which really does feel like i'm proceeding @ a snail's pace). My cravings to again smoke marijuana really only lasted a few months after i quit smoking it in the summer of 2014, and thankfully, they remain minimal to non-existant. What i'm currently using AA for is not to stay sober/clean (though i'm very much aware that it can't hurt to do all this work in case @ some point in the future i do have some desire to pick up again, whether cannabis, or some other mind-altering substance). Rather, i'm finding tremendous value in so many different other dimensions, learning so much more about myself, the world, and how i interact with it and other people. Uncovering so much in the way of delusional thinking. And also realizing that my addictive tendencies have not vanished simply because i was able to stop smoking pot every day, multiple times a day.
But really all of that has been a preamble (which is still not done!) for the topic i do want to get to today. And that is my belief in a Higher Power of my understanding.
i'm still not completely @ peace yet with understanding exactly what Deity and/or Deities i might make sense for me to Pray to. i'm pretty sure that i very much do object to any language which refers to a Creator God. On the bright side though, the word God no longer bothers me nearly as much. i'm very much hung up on pronouns though. Referring to god as a male grates on me @ least as much (if not more!) than the assumption that whatever God there might be has actually created all that Is.
Late in 2009, when i was essentially, fully in the throes of madness, my conception of a Deity (which was incredibly powerful and complete!) was somewhat interesting. While it's certainly not a new idea, what i'd come to believe was that all of the Gods in various religiouns really pointed towards the same entity. i'll not share more details @ this time, other than to say that it's quite obvious in hindsight that my Vision then was corrupted in large part by delusional thinking. Yet it also seems (both in hindsight, and also this was very much the case @ that time) that true and valid insights were mixed in amongst all the chaotic distortions created by my ever-growing psychosis during the fall of that year. The one detail i will share is that i eventually came to see that one God as a very vindictive, punitive, powerfully evil, being. Yet, that was only @ the very end (when my pschotic state was tainting not just some of my cognitive processing, but instead, all of it).
Upon being released from the ICU 5 days after having been transported to the ER of our local hospital, handcuffed to the ambulance gurney, i mostly was again sane (thanks to all the vitamin H which had been pumped into my veins, along with the care of the hospital staff and a number of other treatments, which all contributed to me finally being able to rest). Though it took years to truly regain stability mentally and emotionally. In fact, i'm still very much a work in progress on this front, having a long way to go before i'll feel comfortable that i'm not constantly deluding myself with the narratives that seem to be spun of their own accord inside my head, varying widely in their connection to whatever base reality might actually exist. But late in 2009, as i began to recover, it was quite clear that i'd never be anything close to the same. Mom's death and the subsequent 7 months i spent spiraling down my own particular rabbit hole ended up changing me forever. During the following months and years, as i tried to process what had happened and also figure out what to do with the rest of my life, my initial reaction was to associate Belief in God with my psychosis fairly directly.
i desperately wanted my agnosticism and/or atheism back, on the assumption that no longer being able to embrace either one of those paradigms was what had led me to go insane.
It was not to be, however. i couldn't unsee what i'd been exposed to over the course of those 7 months. While i did struggle for years with this issue (whether to "give in" to my desire to Believe or not), eventually i did come (quite reluctantly, and even fearfully, as i still wasn't yet convinced that to embrace a Deity and/or a spiritual Nature of the Universe which seemed and still seems somewhat to be diametrically opposed to the knowledge we've gained via scientificly apprehending the world, which is something i still do very much embrace) to accept that the world and i may very well have a spiritual dimension which is not just relevant, but critically important.
In fact, in some ways, what i ended up falling into as far as my own personal, changing beliefs (Beliefs?), likely did provide a very crucial component with my ability to refrain from ever smoking marijuana following that one last attempt to get high on the summer solstice of 2014. Though there were other factors which also very much helped too:
- the love and support of my family, especially my wife and life partner
- foremost among these factors (by a long shot!) was the fact that in early June of 2014, i'd not just been hospitalized, but also consented to be an in-patient @ a psychiatric facility following a 2nd psychotic break, and having now put my loved ones through this scenario twice i was determined to do everything i possibly could to avoid that ever happening a third time
- in doing a lot of reading during the previous months and years, i'd come to understand that in @ least some fraction of the population, marijuana very much can and does contribute to a huge increase in the chance of psychosis developing -- combined with the primary reason above this gave e tremendous motivation to do what i'd been wanting to do for quite some time: cut way down on the amount of marijuana i smoked and/or the frequency with which i got high -- and since i'd never managed to be able to do that other than for very very short periods of time (never more than a couple days or a week @ the most in the previous couple decades), it seemed that going cold turkey made sense
- there was a particular woman drug counselor, substantially older than i was, @ that psychiatric facility, who i really connected with -- despite only being there for a total of 72 hours, i was able to leverage a number of things she'd shared with me about addiction and the importance of not just cutting down on smoking marijuana, but stopping completely -- i'm so very very grateful to this day that she and i crossed paths, and it's very much a blessing that i ended up there in Four Winds where she worked, and that i was able to benefit from her grace, knowledge, compassion and assistance
- my good friend Ben had shared with me @ some point (i think a year or several?) previous to 2014, that Stanislov and Christina Grof had published a book entitled Spiritual Emergency that framed psychosis alternately as a potential spiritual emergence and/or emergency
- psychiatry and our modern health care system, via the many people who treated me in that facility, as well as the hospital staff and doctors who'd dealt with me both five years previous and also immediately prior to my visit to Four Winds for three days
So it's quite interesting, being in the rooms now, and hearing over and over how important the spiritual component is to getting and staying sober and/or clean. In hindsight, it definitely does seem to be the case that i'd (by 2014) begun to embrace enough in the way of a spiritual perspective myself, that i ended up doing what not very many people do: giving up a mind-altering substance without the assistance of a 12-step program. Though what i understand now is that, while i may have temporarily succeeded, long-term success (@ not ever giving into my addictive tendencies, and picking up marijuana or another mind altering substance again) is likely going to be aided substantially by my engaging as fully as i can with the recovery community(ies), including working the 12-steps as fully as i'm able. But my way of doing that is to proceed very deliberately. i want to make sure i totally and fully commit to every single step before i move on to the next one. For the moment, what that means is i'm still stuck in the middle of Step2. Though perhaps not for much longer. Maybe my writing here about this to all of you is a way of trying to process through my resistance...
For me (and perhaps for many others?) the first 3 steps sort of come as a unit. While i don't know for sure, my suspicion is (and my AA sponsor sort of hinted that this may in fact often be the case) that, upon truly completing Step2, that Step3 will be more of a formality than anything i have to slow down to work through diligently and slowly. But who knows? If things don't end up working out that way, then it'll be perfectly fine for me to take a very long time to finally be able to get to Step4...
i certainly didn't plan to write anywhere near this extensively about all this when i started (now almost 3 hours ago, and yeah, what that also means is that i'm very likely not going to get any more sleep before dawn, though that's OK, as it's Sunday and i'll be able to nap this afternoon if i really need to). i also had no idea i was going to get so enmeshed in trying to explain as much as i did about my relationship with 12-step recovery. But it is what it is...
i do feel like i'm getting sort of close to being able to wrap up. Yet there is more i want to get into. So here goes:
A number of years ago, another good friend, Jennifer steered me towards an amazing book: Penny Gill's What in the World is Going On?. i'm currently (finally!) in the middle of reading Penny Gill's more recent book: The Radiant Heart of the Cosmos, which is even more mind-blowing than her first one. And it's very much a continuation.
Given how much i've already written, i'm not going to spend very much time/effort in going through what's in both of these marvelous volumes (should you be interested, but not yet ready to commit and purchase/obtain one or both books, then i recommend this page of Penny's website as a good place to start). But to briefly (and probably in a way that does not do any of the three of them any justice!) sum up, Penny has recieved Teachings from two entities, who've identified themselves as Manjushri and Kwan Yin.
Somewhere around a week ago, it occurred to me that perhaps Kwan Yin might be a candidate for the (to use the recovery language from the original Big Book, in a semi-paraphrase) God of my understanding. Since then, i'm not sure that i'll end up fully committing to this path (with Guanyin being the sole entity i end up praying to and seeking guidance from). It seems far more likely that my conception of a Higher Power will end up being far more fluid, perhaps continuing to remain in flux for the rest of my life. But i do look forward to learning about Her. As She has a history that goes back into the history of humanity, being a central Figure in a number of non-western religious and/or spiritual traditions which all originated far around the globe from any place i've yet visited/lived.
Another thing that's interesting is all my resistance (not just to Step2, but also to Step1 and Step3). Given that i really came into the rooms with quite a sense of already developed spirituality, it's quite baffling to me, in terms of why i've not been willing to more readily embrace the language of this first quarter of the program of recovery that is central to so many different groups (with AA being the parental origin to all of the others) more quickly and easily. Perhaps it's my life-long penchant to question explicit direction no matter who gives it to me.
It's quite clear the biggest mistake i made as a young child, and this stuck with me for most or all of my life and remains a problem even now, was my unwillingness to accept my own father's generous attempts to share his wisdom with me. Even though Dad has now vanished from this corporeal plane, i remain incredibly resistant to a number of the things he told me (though on the bright side, i've also finally come to understand how valueable many of the other things he offered in his attempt to help me to properly mature, grow and learn). And it isn't like i rejected everything he ever tried to provide. Certainly in some domains, sports, games and athletics, primarily, i fully embraced pretty much all he was willing and able to gift me with (and it was a lot, resulting in us sharing a deep bond over our collective love for physical prowess, competition, excellence/skill with regard to manual dexterity, whether by one/both of us or anyone else, and a number of other associated areas/topics/endeavors, etc...)
So yeah, getting to the point where i am capable of more readily accepting not just suggestions, guidance, or advice, but actual explicit instructions too, without needing to attempt to break what's offered down, initially trying wholeheartedly to reject/disagree with whatever i'm being told or informed, before eventually reluctantly creeping back w/my tail between my legs to sheepishly try to see if maybe there was wisdom there after all, yeah, that is one of my goals right now (and maybe will be for the rest of my life? though who knows, maybe this one is more solvable than it appears, and it could be that i'll get past this resistance in the not too distant future, and stop questioning every single fucking source of what appears to be authority as i have been my whole life).
There would seem to be another insight i just discovered by writing this to you all.
Maybe a central issue that i've had with the first 3 steps in my journey of recovery (that has only just begun!) relates quite directly to my unwillingness to accept someone else's word(s).
All my life, in so many different areas, i've been so determined to do things my own way and figure everything out without relying on external assistance. To the point that i so often have rejected information that could and/or would have saved me a tremendous amount of time, effort, pain, and or discomfort...
Yeah, so maybe Kwan Yin can help me with that.
Perhaps Manushri too.
And who knows. Maybe even Jesus. Unlikely as that may seem...
Still taking shots @ authority. :-] Obviously i have a long way to go.
But whether i ever arrive @ the destination i'm trying to head towards doesn't seem particularly important @ all. In fact, i suspect it's quite unlikely that it'll happen (bordering on totally impossible that achieving any goal of this sort will ever take place in my lifetime!).
What i think is likely is that i'll end up praying to Someone and/or Something far more often than i've ever done. That's not a high bar however. :-]
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
Wow! longest break yet (with respect to writing here). But whatever...
On the way into work this morning, i decided not to turn on music (nor anything else to listen to) as i began my commute of around 35 minutes, driving through the beauty of the berkshire hills and valleys. But i did end up grabbing my phone and "journaling" audibly into it.
What brought me here was where i got to in that process, as i'm trying to assimilate and integrate a number of different ideas, procedures, programs, beliefs, and understandings.
i stumbled upon a neologism:
or should it be spelled flocus?
And there's resonance with a number of other terms:
The last one there of the three "ingredient words" (to the new one which popped into my head as if channeled from somewhere else) is perhaps the most resonant. In that it's the flow which i perceive as happening "naturally" with the Universe, Gaia, and Life, all rolling forward, flowing, and extending tendrils...
So how do i align myself w/this natural flow? Instead of fighting it, and/or trying to resist it... Perhaps an ultimately unanswerable question. Yet the 12-step stuff really does provide a possible answer (though it seems quite clear to me that this does not have to necessarily be everyone's answer): of giving over my will and/or trying to align it with that of the Universe (within various 12-step programs, it's more common to refer to one's Higher Power, or even God explicitly, though i suddenly find myself wanting to revert to thinking about not just the Universe but actually the manifestation of consciousness that may exist far beyond any one of our own individual consciousnesses.
There are perspectives (somewhat common in various traditions that come out of disparate cultures around the planet) that view our individual consciousnesses as each a way that the Universe Herself reflects upon herself and so manifests her own consciousness. The usual view that seems to be prevalent is that (unlike the true Universal all-pervading consciousness) we are each inherently limited by our own selves, in that we necessarily identify something that is me which we each consider separate from all the rest of what exists.
And i'm winding down...
Not really capable of going much farther right now.
Yet, the way that i feel right now, as i try to come to terms with my own humanity, has led me to try to again post here...
i'm not sure what anything means -- and maybe that's a good thing, as meaning is a human construct, and perhaps the Universe does not make Herself amenable to us understanding Her in many/most cases
Anyhow, i do want my own efforts to be aligned with those of the natural patterns which supercede humanity. But doing so, i think, requires me to drop expectations in terms of outcomes or results. The Universe, She will take care of the results, which may or may not be what i thought i was seeking. And probably the thinking is the problem.
Maybe better to feel and sense, and try to obtain guidance those ways.
Not that strategizing and planning are always counterproductive. But i think it's really important to understand that we have to try to maintain a willingness to change course as we discover how inadequate our previous understanding of things (including even how to define problems and/or what explicitly might be problematic in the first place) was when we were doing that initial preparation, goal-setting, etc...
i can be reached by emailing:
eg at emergencyguild dot org
other (mostly or entirely older?) writings of mine can be accessed via this link
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