Archive for November, 2013

Snowtop in the clouds


What’s this blog all about?


You can see that phrase in the title banner, and its that phrase which kick started my writing of this blog.

Look at this photo I took this week. I think it captures the absolute essence of “becoming not being”.

Start wherever you want. At the top you can see the blue sky, whispy clouds kissing and caressing the surface of the snow covered mountain, or is the snow blowing up into whispy clouds in the sky? You can see the shadows of the clouds darkening the surface of the land, and you know, you just know, that those shadows, those clouds, and, yes, the borders of the snow, are constantly changing.

In fact, it’s quite hard to see the boundaries up there. Where does the land end, the cloud begin? Where does the blue sky end and the cloud begin?

Then as you come down further you see the land without snow…..the blues, the greys, the browns……all, forever, becoming not being.

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Late autumn Scotland

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the people we love, the place where we live.

That’s a quote from David Suzuki’s book, “The Sacred Balance”. It comes just after this paragraph –

Although we know who we are, where we come from, what we are for, we give that knowledge no weight; our culture tends to deny or conceal that insight, and so we are left alienated and afraid, believing the truth to be ‘objective’ instead of embodied (my italics). A world that is raw material, resources, dead matter to be made into things, has nothing sacred in it. So we cut down the sacred grove, lay it waste and declare that it does not matter, because it is only matter. Just so the slavers of an earlier century declared their merchandise to be incapable of ‘proper human feeling’. Just so generations of experimental animals have been sacrificed in the name of research. Pesticides poisoning the lakes and rivers, fish disappearing from the oceans, rain forests going up in smoke – this is the world we have spoken so powerfully into existence, and we will continue to live in it unless we change our tune, tell a different story.

What a powerful piece of writing!

Aren’t there so many important points in that one paragraph? How we fail to recognise the embodied nature of reality, and instead create the delusion of ‘objects’ and ‘objectivity’. And how from that one delusion we create a whole story of separateness and objectification which colours our relationships to others, to Nature, and, ultimately, to ourselves.

We DO know very well what matters most to us – and that is the people we love, and the place where we live.

Shall we just act from that knowledge? Test our choices against that truth?

How would life look then? What story would we be telling……a love story?

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Robert Burns statue

David Suzuki writes (in “The Sacred Balance”)

Definition identifies, specifies and limits a thing, describes what it is and what it is not; it is the tool of our great classifying brain. Poetry, in contrast, is the tool of synthesis, of narrative. It struggles with boundaries in an effort to mean more, include more, to find the universal in the particular. It is the dance of words, creating more-than-meaning, reattaching the name, the thing, to everything around it.

Iain McGilchrist, in his astonishing, “The Master and His Emissary“, describes the brain’s left hemisphere approach to the world as analytical, naming, classifying, analysing. And he cites poetry as one of the great functions of the right hemisphere’s way of engaging with the world. The right hemisphere “struggles with boundaries”, sees the connections, synthesises, holistically discovers “the universal in the particular”.

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Relationships – here’s the key to understanding living organisms.

We don’t understand a human being by measuring his or her parts and adding up the results. We understand a human being by studying how the parts relate, and how the person relates to the rest of Nature.

Fritjof Capra puts it this way

Systems thinking emerged from a series of interdisciplinary dialogues among biologists, psychologists, and ecologists, in the 1920s and ’30s. In all these fields, scientists realized that a living system – organism, ecosystem, or social system – is an integrated whole whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller parts. The “systemic” properties are properties of the whole, which none of its parts have. So, systems thinking involves a shift of perspective from the parts to the whole. The early systems thinkers coined the phrase, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” What exactly does this mean? In what sense is the whole more than the sum of its parts? The answer is: relationships. All the essential properties of a living system depend on the relationships among the system’s components. Systems thinking means thinking in terms of relationships. Understanding life requires a shift of focus from objects to relationships.

I find this completely thrilling and it explains so clearly why we can’t use reductionism to fully comprehend living beings.

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Our global financial/economic system consists of a network of computers programmed to trade to make money. The system has one goal – to make money. For what? For whom?

Manuel Castells writes in his analysis (in The Information Age) –

The outcome of the process of financial globalisation may be that we have created an Automaton at the core of our economies that is decisively conditioning our lives. Humankind’s nightmare of seeing our machines taking control of our world seems on the edge of becoming reality – not in the form of robots that eliminate jobs or government computers that police our lives, but as an electronically based system of financial transactions.

And, as Marc Havély writes in Prospective 2015 – 20125 (my translation)

the modern economy has only one goal – growth – to the detriment of human beings who are enslaved by work and consumption, and to the detriment of the biosphere which is plundered, polluted and destroyed bit by bit.

Isn’t it time we stopped and asked ourselves what our economic and political systems are for? What’s their function?

Is it the support of human happiness, wellbeing and thriving; the deepening of the human experience of meaning and purpose; the flourishing of Nature and all of Life; the furthering of the evolutionary development of the Universe?

Can we agree greater goals than accumulation of objects, consumption of resources, and a numbing of the experience of living?

Havély asks that we ask of our work or our purchases –

  • Is this excellent for my health, physical, moral and mental?
  • Is this excellent for Nature, for Life and for the Earth?
  • Does this add good value and richness to human beings as a whole?

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How does ice form? Because the water gets cold? Yes, ice doesn’t form until the water molecules settle down their activity enough to form a crystal structure. But it needs something else…….a seed. For ice to form, there has to be a starting point, such as an impurity or a roughness on the surface of the container.

When it starts to happen, it is beautiful to watch. Here, in the garden of the hospital, the ice is just beginning to form at the edge of this lovely bowl. Can you see it?


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