Reaching Into the Universe

Rant: price of gas + crappy public transit

Muni/car crash"If the price of gas is hurting you, you are too dependent on driving." — yours truly

What started as a snarky but serious comment on Facebook inspired this rant not just on fossil fuel dependence but also the San Francisco public transit system (MUNI).

I have to admit, MUNI is inexorably making me hate it. I do not find it to be quick, easy, on time, useful, personable, or even reasonably priced anymore given the preceding. I do find it to be embarrassing (we're a tourist town), frustrating, underfunded, poorly managed, and frankly unacceptable anymore.

Apparently if you take exotic scenic bus routes it's fine. But try riding the underground out of Castro station... anymore the trains are so crowded that I don't want to ride them, assuming I can even push my way onto one. I've taken to driving to a twice-weekly appointment because it costs the same, takes less time, and is WAY better for my health and mood. Also, because I can no longer read on MUNI (because I can no longer get a seat), I don't feel like I'm losing out.

Nonetheless, if the price of gas is hurting you, you are too dependent on cars, whether directly in the case of pumping gas or indirectly in the rising price of food and goods.

If you choose to live in a sprawling city with even worse public transit than San Francisco's, you are still too dependent on cars. Doesn't matter the reason. Our entire country is.

Time to think about options: buy a Leaf, move closer to work, get a new job closer to home, or just threaten to quit as leverage to demand your company let you telecommute more often (why aren't you doing that anyway, unless the very nature of your job prevents it?), storm city hall and demand change, something, anything.

Anything except complain that gas should be cheaper. For gods sake let's not have any whining that a precious finite resource is "too expensive" when the truth is we're too wasteful and too resistant to change.


Peruvian bone throwing regarding 2012

Came across this video of a woman doing a form of Peruvian divination involving the throwing of bones across a symbolic image or map, and then interpreting the pattern that results. I'm not big on 2012 stuff, but was interested enough to watch. Of note to me, she talks about reaching into the universe for new ideas.


Our confusion of “less bad” with “good”

Jeffrey Hollender talks about the difference between "less bad" and "good" with brilliant clarity.


News: rainforest produced more CO2 than it absorbed

The Independent is reporting that drought in the Amazon rainforest may accelerate global climate change as catastrophic drought causes it to release more carbon dioxide than the total annual carbon emissions of the United States.

Meanwhile, some people remain in deep denial. You probably know some of them—I do! Despite the evidence that we have to change the ways that we live, some people resist.

What kind of rock bottom do we have to hit before we wake up and start the recovery process from our unsustainability addiction? Will we all die in a dirty gutter, or will we kick it and get clean together?


Event: Conversation with Chris Rainier

globes_coronelli_012A friend remembered my post about language preservation & sustainability and pointed me to this upcoming lecture at the California Academy of Sciences:

Chris Rainier
In Conversation With Mary Ellen Hannibal

Enduring Voices – All Roads Photography
Documentary Photographer – National Geographic

Wednesday April 6th 2011, Herbst Theatre

Rainer is the photographer for National Geographic's Enduring Voices project, a multi-year effort that strives to research and revitalize the world’s most endangered languages. Every fourteen days... a language goes extinct on Earth and with it humanity loses all of the oral knowledge of the local people and their environmental history to include ethnobotany, biodiversity and their relationships to the land which sprang from centuries old indigenous traditions. Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many of which are still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts.

Tickets are $20.


Grandma, the planet, life

GrandmaBoth this and yesterday's post are in honor of my grandma, who died a year ago today.

Last December I had just gotten home from the final day of Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream facilitator training when I received the last call I would ever receive from her. It was to tell me she was in the hospital and not doing well. I drove up to Sacramento that night; less than three weeks later, she died on December 24th, 2009. It was somehow fitting for her, a woman who was so Christian, to pass away so close to Christmas.

The ensuing tumult and long transition—that I'm still making—into a world without her has thus far prevented me from engaging with the ATDCTD symposium the way I had envisioned. My grandma was the most important person on the planet to me. She was the first person after the doctor to hold me when I was born. She was the rock of our family and my ultimate safety net. She was always there for me, and now she's not. I'm getting a helluva ending to my Saturn return and it feels like everything in my life is changing.

I've been empowering the story that this is for the best, that the end of this transition will find me in a better place to fulfill the intent with which I took the facilitator training: to do my part to help heal the planet. My grandma, a Southern Baptist Christian, would understand this as "doing God's will." Above all, that is what she wanted me to do in this world.

I wish she had lived to fully understand and celebrate that with me. Discerning one's call and following it is something to share with those close to you! I did try to talk to her about it, but my own understanding of it all was so new, and my ability to speak about it in ways that made sense to her also new.

In the year or so before she died, we were just beginning to bridge some of the deeper gaps between us as I learned more and more how to translate things into the language of her perspective, how to meet her where she was at, thanks mostly to tools like NVC and Spiral Dynamics. These efforts did result in what was possibly the most wonderfully authentic conversation we ever had. I'm grateful for the things I've learned if only for that single conversation.

My grandma never believed the world would get fundamentally better. She believed in a rather static human condition that would persist until the second coming of Christ. I don't think she believed that the world would continue to exist after that. I don't believe those things, and have mostly chosen to act as though the world can fundamentally improve.

I do not know which opinion is true or false. What I do know is that those who subscribe to a relatively unchanging human condition seem to have given up without really trying. I prefer to take a cue from Robert Anton Wilson's 8th Basic Winner Script which says, "In the province of the mind, what is believed to be true is true, or becomes true within certain limits to be learned by experience and experiment." If the human condition is to be changed dramatically, it will only be done by those who haven't already decided that it's impossible.

Besides, there may be reason to think otherwise. In Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein traces the entire history of the present human condition and presents a compelling case that separation—from the mind/body split to our addiction to technological control of nature—has been the core mistake humans have been making all along. We've been making it for so long that it almost feels like an unchangeable part of human nature, but that's an assumption worth challenging. What if separation were in fact the root of the global problems we now face? Could we not successfully envision and live into what Eistenstein calls the "Age of Reunion"?

Whether she believed in its possibility or not, my grandma could at least imagine a better world. She died not having seen that better world. Will we have that same experience or a different one? How much effort are you willing to put into seeing a better world before you die—better because you helped create it as such.

The first step is simply to accept that it could be possible. The second is to realize that there's only one way to find out: try. My grandma understood this as in the words of Mother Teresa: "We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful." We may not succeed, but we must at least act as if we can.


Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream

When I first heard about the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium, I went to the website, decided it didn't look integral enough, and forgot about it… until I heard Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Symposium's parent organization The Pachamama Alliance, speak at the Green Festival.

She inspired me to check it out, and after attending my first symposium I realized that it was good enough, being continually improved, and more importantly it is already here, now. I'm not aware of any fully integral programs for educating and mobilizing the public to solve global issues—yet!—but right now you can search for symposia to attend all over the world!

And while the Symposium is not explicitly integral, they've got the Big Three covered—the program focuses on the interconnections of three crises the globe now faces: spiritual fulfillment (I), economic and social justice (We), and environmental sustainability (It). Not only does the Symposium cover them, it gets that the three arise together and thus these issues are not actually separate issues.

The arc of the Symposium addresses all three as it covers

  1. Where we are now—what do these crises look like?
  2. How we got here—how did they happen?
  3. What's possible—can we change them?
  4. Where do we go from here—how do we make the change?

The intention is to awaken people to the global crisis we all find ourselves in, but more importantly to awaken a sense of themselves as an agent of change in resolving that crisis. In short, you have a role in the global crises that you may not have been aware of and thus a role you can take consciously in undoing them.

What I like most about the Symposium is its shamanic origin. This bears mentioning given recent discussions regarding the importance of shamanism in solving global problems. The Pachamama Alliance was created in response to a call from an indigenous, ayahuasca using tribe in the Amazon. Looking to protect their way of life, the shamans had seen that what needs to change is "the dream of the North", the cultural programming and assumptions that result in the erosion and destruction of our bodies, minds, spirits, communities, and planet. The biggest threat to indigenous populations is US and our unsustainable mindsets, beliefs, practices, and policies. The biggest threat to everybody on the planet, including ourselves, is us.

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream is about changing that, starting with YOU when you sign up and attend a Symposium.


What does green really mean?

"Do I see anyone around me whose work is their joy, whose time is their own, whose love is their passion?"

Passion FlowerThis quote from Ascent of Humanity has stuck with me. It would seem to point to a need to go beyond questions of sustainability—after all, many people sustain their dreary work lives for decades or a lifetime—but I think it points to the need to get really clear on just what we mean when we say sustainability.

If green means spiritually fulfilling, physically healthy, economically & socially just, and environmentally sustainable, then don't issues of joy, autonomy, and passion find a place in there somewhere? Because that's the only kind of green I'm interested in.

Here is the full context of the quote:

As for my intuition of magnificent possibilities for my own life, well, my expectations are too high. Grow up, the voices say, life is just like this. What right have I to expect the unreasonable magnificence whose possibility certain moments have shown me? No, it is my intuitions that are not to be trusted. The examples of what life is surround me and define what is normal. Do I see anyone around me whose work is their joy, whose time is their own, whose love is their passion? It can't happen. Be thankful, say the voices, that my job is reasonably stimulating, that I feel "in love" at least once in a while, that the pain is manageable and life's uncertainties under control. Let good enough be good enough. Sure, life can be a drag, but at least I can afford to escape it sometimes. Life is about work, self-discipline, responsibility, but if I get these out of the way quickly and efficiently, I can enjoy vacations, entertainment, weekends, maybe even early retirement. Listening to these voices, is it any wonder that for many years, I devoted most of my energy and vitality to the escapes from life? Is it any wonder that so many of my students at Penn State look forward already, at age 21, to retirement?

Ahh, a man after my own heart.

We can't achieve the desired exterior transformations of sustainability—environmental care, physical health—without also transforming their corresponding interiors: the cultural injustices engaged in by, and bankrupt beliefs held in the hearts and minds of, every single one of us.

Everything has to change: the it, the we, and the me, the you. We cannot effectively call for change in the world "out there" without also changing ourselves and how we relate to one another. It doesn't work, which is a lesson my grandma taught me by never learning it herself.


Lawns suck

What does it take to convince people to ditch the lawn already? From Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture:



Talk: Climate Change and the Way of the Shaman

Jim GarrisonSpeaking as someone who is not actually a patriot, I would LOVE to see our faltering country step up and be a global leader once again. I would love to see my country leading the world into an age of sustainability. And yet I must face the reality that it's probably not going to happen, particularly any time soon.

Ruthless realism was a main theme of Jim Garrison's recent Bay Area Integral talk, Climate Change and the Way of the Shaman. According to Garrison, we must face the reality that environmentally we have passed the point of no return, if not scientifically than certainly politically, and that we are now headed into increasingly turbulent times.

Given that assessment, Garrison invited us to pull back from the global political scene and focus on local initiatives & creating community, saying, "If you know the truth, then you are empowered to build what you need to be." You can see Garrison doing exactly that in his letter canceling the State of the World Forum's Washington conference.

Finally, he shared his current understanding that the power that will allow us to do the above is contained in the Turquoise and Purple levels of Spiral Dynamics, the Holistic/Global and Shamanic/Tribal levels. After all, what's happening now is about the global impacts of our severe disconnection from nature and the shaman was the original mediator between nature and humankind.

Garrison is an engaging speaker and experienced in global politics. I hope he's wrong in his assessment. And yet, as I find myself contemplating the idea that putting any more effort into shifting humanity's current course is energy wasted and imagine funneling that energy into creating resilient local community I feel lighter and more empowered. Watching the leaders of the world fail to create any real change while simultaneously observing the mainstream generally failing to give a shit has been, in a word, depressing. Global fail. At least at the local levels the chance at having an impact is non-zero and you get to see real results from your actions.

I question the Purple/Turquoise idea. Throughout the talk he referred to Purple as the level that's "connected" to the Earth, but after reading Ascent of Humanity I think it is more accurate to call Purple the "least disconnected" level. Not that I don't think Purple has something to contribute; on the contrary, I would think an integral approach would include the strengths of all the levels. Perhaps Turquoise, though, is where the real work of rediscovering connection, healing separation, and creating what Charles Eistenstein calls the Age of Reunion, lies.