[Click here for the condensed version]
Mindfulness, it turns out, is only a step on our journey. I keep coming back to Jon Kabat-Zinn, though he says, ‘It’s never been about me, it’s about we.’ Kabat-Zinn (pictured) says, ‘from the very beginning [of MBSR] the idea wasn’t to have a nice therapy that we did at U-Mass [University of Massachusetts Medical School]. The idea was to transform the world, I mean to shift the bell curve of the world because if it’s true in anyway shape or form that compassion and mindfulness and heartfulness if you will are really the core of our humanity, then the fact that we’ve been ignoring it for so long, socially, politically, economically, and in every other way, as well as psychologically, is in some sense criminal’. Kabat-Zinn wants to introduce ‘the full spectrum of the dharma‘. Mindfulness is just the start. Then there’s compassion…. Jean Vanier is known for his compassion, the nourishment and love of others. He writes that ‘to be nourished by the love of others is a call to become a nourishment for those who suffer and are alone in distress. We should not be afraid of loving people and telling them that we love them. This is the greatest nourishment of all…. I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.’
• 2014-02-18–moose to the east, moose to the west on a park for all seasons (terra nova) and great canadian rivers (the stikine). brian cox tells of the wonder of life’s origins giving rise to ‘endless forms most beautiful’ (online until 2014-03-18). the origin of life on this planet begins off this planet, even before the planets and stars existed (pictured is a painting by cédric sorel), when gravity gathered hydrogen to create the first stars which then ignited and fused the hydrogen into helium, then eventually other elements, including carbon. carbon is the ‘backbone’ of proteins and pattern-replicating, information-holding dna, the stuff of life. all life can trace its lineage back through its parents and their parents and their parents and so on to luca, the last universal common ancestor, who existed some 3.5 billion years ago. since then there has been an explosion of life on this planet. in this universe there must be billions of earth-like planets. it is inconceivable, cox (pictured) says, that life doesn’t exist elsewhere, no doubt with, as darwin wrote, ‘endless forms most beautiful’ yet governed by one simple law– evolution by natural selection. but, he concludes, that doesn’t diminish life on earth. to the contrary, in all the universe, the realization that each life is unique makes life even more wondrous.
What is ‘transformational evolution‘? Physicist Eric Chaisson gives some examples, both animate and inanimate: ‘Mountains sprouting in response to tectonic forces, fertilized eggs developing into mature adults, and normal stars swelling to become red giants are all examples of transformational evolution.’ Unlike inanimate things like the sun and other stars, however, ‘living systems generally require larger values of [energy rate density] than inanimate systems not only to maintain their greater structural order … but also to fuel their complex functions of growth and reproduction.’ Studying complex living systems, especially human culture, is nearly impossible, for ‘the number, diversity, and interconnectedness of factors influencing human relations greatly exceed those affecting the fate of stars or the evolution of plants’. However, ‘regardless of all else, the second law of thermodynamics demands that as any system complexifies—even a human social system—its surroundings necessarily degrade.’ He notes that ‘technologists use an energy rate density … that is several times greater than that of traditional commercial society (perhaps, epitomized by astronaut-elites who individually enjoy energy shares … 500 times more than each of us actually consumes as food daily). Symbolized by the most heavily energy-using countries such as the United States, Canada, Bahrain, and Qatar, technological societies have distinctly higher [energy rate density] values than the average global citizen on Earth today or even than those living in the developed countries of Europe…. And it is all still rising’. He observes that natural selection likely pertains to physical and cultural events as well—for whether stars or humans as discussed above, we encounter the same general trend found for plants: The greater the perceived complexity of the system, the greater the flow of energy density through that system—either to build it, or to maintain it, or both.’
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says ‘that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow — a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove.’ (thanks to bb)
Richard Rohr knows we have to grow inside, ‘we have to leave the garden, so to speak. It is this movement out and back between the loneliness and desperation of the false self and the fullness of the True Self that is the process of transformation. That’s how we move to consciousness and inner freedom.’ Joseph Campbell (pictured) called this the hero’s journey, to leave (or fall) and return. Each of us is a hero. Each of us has left the womb, and that’s just the start of what is probably a lifelong journey. Each of has to leave the Shire, I mean the garden. Rohr says these ‘are journeys away from the center, where we literally become “ec-centric” and off balance [akin to my ataxia?]. These are the recurring biblical texts of fall and recovery, hiddenness and discovery, loss and renewal, failure and forgiveness, exile and return.’
• 2014-02-20–cb and i talked about mark’s good news, and she had me envision what might good news might mean today, for me; i said that we see everything and everybody as sacred–a biophilic, namaste-like idea. prophets and artists point out the bad news as well. the final ‘art of russia’ episode, ‘smashing the mould’, ended with andrei molodkin, who creates art with russian oil (such as ‘KI$$’, pictured). when we burn it in our cars, he reminds us, we burn hundreds of millions of years of history. he and series host andrew graham-dixon had fun turning one of his pieces topsy-turvy. the half-filled-with-oil letters (spelling ‘Das Kapital’ in german script) ran upside-down, which recalls the poem that i started this morning and the good news that now everything is upside-down. whether upside-down or rightside-up, as brian cox points out, the carbon remains. maybe that’s good news for the carbon. now freed from deep under the ground, perhaps some of it will rejoin the living. who knows?
How old are you? ‘The galaxy, named Abell2744 Y1, was formed around 13.2 billion years ago when the universe was extremely young.’ — ‘Extremely young’? What’s a few hundred million years? Nevertheless, this is cool, whatever your age. (thanks to jwl)
• 2014-02-22–reading about buddhist dharma, which ‘within a western context can be seen as an applied system of natural mental health and well-being.’ the six qualities of buddhist dharma are:
- a science rather than a sectarian belief
- can be tested by personal practice
- immediate results
- leads one to liberation
- oneself has to experience it. ‘As an analogy, no one can simply make another know how to swim. Each person individually has to learn how to swim. In the same way, dhamma [or dharma] cannot be transferred or bestowed upon someone.’
dharma contains the wisdom of buddhism. ‘One of the central tenets of Buddhism, is the denial of a separate permanent “I”, and is outlined in the three marks of existence’: suffering, change/impermanence, and non-self. when you think about it, the denial of a separate, permanent self is the consequence of the physical big bang, is the philosophical/religious notion that what you do to others you do to yourself, and is the ecological realization that everything is connected. such an idea, discovered again and again through the millennia by priests and scientists, women and men, deserves your notice and mine.
we watched ‘that shouldn’t fly‘ but it can glide. in the rainforests of malaysia there are gliding frogs, lizards, snakes, and colugos (also known as cobegos or flying lemurs, though they are not true lemurs–pictured, thanks to sh). afterwards, ‘coast‘ hopped across the channel to france.
Close you eyes and listen to Cosmogony by Björk. She sings of four creation myths (which she studied as she prepared for the album and multi-media events Biophilia), the last of which Brian Cox (above) and you and I share. Hollow is another song from Biophilia that was inspired by her ‘ancestors and DNA, that the grounds open below you and you can feel your mother and her mother, and her mother, and her mother, and her mother,’ Björk says. ‘It’s like being part of this everlasting necklace when you’re just a bead on a chain and you sort of want to belong and be a part of it and it’s just like a miracle.’ (thanks to lb)
The Dave Matthews Band plays Ants Marching. (thanks to db)
Ane Brun sings Jóga.
The greatest ever trombone solo. The singing’s pretty good, too.