Tag Archives: reality

The Nature of Nature

If we look with a wide angle lens at a topographical map of the whole of nature, we see a web of interconnected relational systems, each with some combination of self similarity and differentiation. Atoms are similar to other atoms, with some key differences. Cells are similar to other cells, yet with key differences. These elements of structure also relate to each other in a combination of self similar and differentiated ways. A reverberating echo of self similarity and differentiation that we could use to see the nature of the entire relationship landscape we call the cosmos.

Of course we could categorize the many systems we see in nature many ways, some more useful than others, but one of the more useful ways of looking at interconnected systems, at least as they relate to us, is to gauge their value based on how well or poorly they contribute to what we need as biological creatures to stay coherent… Let’s take a look:

Continuing with a wide angle lens approach to looking at nature, we might see the question begging through the whole structure: Why are there any coherent systems in nature at all? Even deeper: Why are there complex adaptive coherent systems such as we see expressed through our own biology and the larger tapestry of life into which we are woven? This question has tickled the minds of inquisitive people in some way shape or form ever since we’ve had occasion to turn our gaze toward understanding this cosmic womb we are both part of, and continuously bathed in.

To find the answer to this, we can begin by looking at the global properties on which all coherent structures stand; to see what is communicated through all of them, and use this as a foundation to understand all structure. Whenever we see systems that maintain some form of equilibrium such as an atom, a solar system or an organism, we also see that they behave in two key ways. They both nourish and defend the coherency of the system in the face of the whole of nature, which has a blend of both nourishing and antagonistic elements in relation to that system. With this in mind, it appears the complex tapestry of relationships in nature is inclined to accumulate those things which result in a sustained coherency. This coherency is established through nourishing behaviors and defensive behaviors against antagonists to that coherency.

Here’s a link to just one example of a relationship between cacao plants and microbes that protect its coherency, but examples of nourish and defend behaviors can be found as the foundation of every coherent field of relationships in nature that is sustained over time. In fact; it could be said that this is the nature of nature.

https://www.labroots.com/trending/microbiology/6387/microbes-act-protect-chocolate-supply

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What is Important?

This video is a perspective on what’s important.

Here is a text of the narration:

What is important?

What is important? How would we measure it, and how would we know the measure was accurate? Although there are many possible ways, if we use a scale of things that have the most profound influence on our ability to realize our full potential, and use that to measure what we currently apply our energies to as a global culture; we can see the gap, the gap between what’s important, and what we do.

Somewhere in our not so distant past, on some day we couldn’t pinpoint because we weren’t watching, we crossed a critical threshold. We crossed the threshold where we no longer live in a world where people starve because we can’t feed them; we now live in a world where people starve because we don’t feed them. We have the skills and resources to make this a plentiful world, but we do not yet have the focus, nor the will – to do what’s important.

We have the capacity to cultivate a world brimming with potential – potential that can only be realized if we have each other’s backs. Instead we live in a world where, acting out of fear, we have to watch our backs – a world where we have to defend ourselves from ourselves. Maybe we don’t recognize this is the recipe for self made poverty – maybe we are suffering the echo of our collective traumatic past, where a veil of ignorance forced us to be at the mercy of a frightening and often cruel environment, and as a result, we learned to exploit each other, to dominate, or be dominated… This is a past we need to navigate away from if we’re going to cultivate our full potential. Until we do this, we will continue to rob ourselves of what’s important.

What’s important is you – the family, who shapes the lens through which the child understands reality by the way you treat them and each other. You forge their developing identity in the fires of the relationships you expose them to, and this defines whether that fire will refine them, or destroy them. You are the port from which the child launches, and you define what that child will be equipped with to navigate the wider social seas, and how they will influence those they touch – for the rest of their lives. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the teachers, who have the wheel that steers the future as you pass the torch of knowledge to the next generations. You’re not merely an installer of facts, but a primary cultivator of the tools that will determine whether we will capably face the challenges that lie before us, or sink under their weight. You have a powerful hand on the rudder that steers this Earthen ship of ours through sometimes troubled waters. Together with the family, you set the tone for the direction we will travel. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the friend, who doesn’t have to be asked, but actively seeks to offer your best. Your behavioral vocabulary doesn’t include apathy. You willingly act on behalf of your friends – ready to deliver a comforting word, a helping hand, or a stinging challenge depending on the need – your purpose remains constant – to serve each other. You have a powerful hand in the stability of this Earthen ship in which we all ride. And your aid through the storms, and companionship in fair weather, makes this journey we’re all on worthwhile. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the stranger, who may not be familiar with those in other ships that pass by, but know that they are full of kindred kinds – you who understand that it takes all of us, communicating through actions big and small, that we’re in this together, that we share the same waters – and that sharing what we have of value with each other is the reason for the abundance we have. You are the one that opens the door without being asked – you don’t hesitate to act to strengthen the larger community of life on which we all depend for breath because you know you are part of that same body. You are what’s important.

And what’s important is Earth – it is our common ground and our greatest teacher. On it we can stand together and flourish – or divided we can fall back into the soil which once generously gave us this opportunity for a plentiful life. Earth has given us what we need and taught us by writing its lessons into the fabric of who we are – like the need to strike a balance between give and take that’s written into our breath… and how all it asks in return is that we recognize that using that breath to cultivate fruitful relationships is what’s really important.

 

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Our Invisible Friends

imaginary-friend We have to be very careful about the invisible friends we make. The invisible friends, made with words and ideas, stitched together with faith. These abstract concepts that live inside us and yet are, by nature, separate from objective reality because they are only real by virtue of our belief in them. Depending on their nature, they can guide us to cultivate a nourishing relationship climate and elevate us to the pinnacle of ecstasy, or drain us of all vitality and leave us gasping for life. We make them coherent and breathe life into them through our individual collective belief.

The ideas that become real when we respond to our belief in them would die without that breath of life we breathe into them. They ride the thermals of our faith and we put them in castles made of stories. We allow them to govern us as monarchs that must be trusted feared and worshiped to wield the power they do over our lives. Once believed, these abstractions form a lens that bends what we see into their image. A mixed lens of fact and fancy shapes the currents that steer our experience of life.

Abstractions are neither good nor evil, they simply are what they are; the verbal currency we use to give form and substance to our values, whatever those values may be. Hate is one of the fruits of abstraction. Belief in hate can lead us to exact the violent worst from ourselves and spread it like a virus, to beget more hate. The idea that humanity can be carved up with abstractions used as justification to artificially divide the “worthy” and the “unworthy” when the real truth is closer to poverty spawned by apathy dressed in self-righteous abstractions.

Much of what we call religion and politics is built on the currency of abstraction floating on faith. The battles to control the abstract narrative by manipulating the cultural winds of faith can ensnare us in the crossfire of heated poverty inducing battles that are founded on faith and made real by our actions. These invisible friends that ride the thermals of faith and give birth to behaviors can be the source of freedom or enslavement.

Some ideas can combine to become thought stopping prisons made with bricks of abstraction, others can be the source to freedom and greater depth perception. They can help us to know our nature and navigate more effectively through these murky waters of reality. We can use our invisible friends to form nourishing social bonds, bring vitality to community, protect us, and help us weather the storms and cope with terrible circumstances that might have otherwise been unbearable. They can enable us to embrace beauty, truth and many other heights and forms of intimacy and ecstasy.

Let’s choose our words wisely with an eye toward how they collectively serve to bring about constructive and nourishing behaviors that help us grow and realize our full potential. Our words,  combined with our faith in them, are the currency that powers what we do to and for each other. They powerfully shape the nature of the waters in which we all swim.

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Perception and Reality

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The Origin of Life

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While we don’t know the full details of how the harmonic symphony of relationships we call biology came about, we do have some clarity on our origin. Where we are is where we’ve been all along. Paradoxically life is both a journey and a destination through and to the cosmos. The cosmos is the womb that nourishes all life, it is also the origin. How it all works we may not be sure of, but the fact that everything we are as biological creatures is an expression of the nature of this cosmic womb we all depend on to nourish us is not in doubt. It could not be otherwise. The more we learn about the relationships that define nature the more we learn about ourselves. Our opportunity lies in the application of that discovery to nourish our fullest potential. Just as we are nourished by and an inseparable part of the cosmos, this is reflected in the inseparable nourishing relationship dynamic between all mothers and children.

Where Does Meaning Come From?

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The definition of language is typically confined to human behaviors that use structured sounds, symbols and/or gestures to communicate meaning.[1] Academic titans in the field of linguistics and cognition have done battle over whether language is behaviorally motivated by cause and effect through stimulus and response, a product of neuronal behaviors in the brain, or perhaps a hardwired human trait.[2] Brain scientists have embarked on quests for such things as “the grandmother neuron” in the search for the means by which we get our state of awareness.[3] Some daring warriors of exploration have pondered that language may be part of the broader animal kingdom. Some definitions expand the language bracket to include non-verbal elements of relationship such as visual communications like architectural design and art. Posture, tone and inflection are woven into the fabric of some theories or even such distant things as the signaling processes that goes on within and between biological cells[4] and organisms. With all of this squishy chatter about the definition of language we could easily miss the common thread that ties them all together; meaning. While there are many conflicts over the nature of language, the idea that language is a structured communication of meaning is not typically in dispute.

Language communicates meaning, and the origin of meaning is relationship. In fact; if we use the idea that “relationship is the origin of meaning” as our lens, it opens up a whole new world beyond the narrow definitions that confine meaning to traditional ideas of language. To illustrate the connection between relationship and meaning we can start by looking at a familiar word; “water”. “Water” is a group of symbols that stands in for the actual substance water. Although the word water and the actual substance are separate entities, these symbols and the substance are connected in relationship. It is this relationship connection by which meaning is conveyed.[5] When a relationship connection is a shared value between two or more entities, this is the root of communication. When two or more people understand this relationship with a shared value between the symbol and the substance, communication is possible, but the point that meaning is conveyed through relationship is the key.

The English word communication comes from a Latin word “communis”, which means “to share”. With meanings built on relationships as the currency of every language and shared values as the means of communicating that meaning we cannot assume that every meaning conveyed through relationships is understood. Communication requires this shared system relationship values in order to both encode and decode the same meaning. Language is the method by which meanings are encoded but communication requires encoding and accurately decoding by way of shared values. If shared values do not exist between both sender and receiver, communication can be distorted or destroyed even though the currency of meaning based on relationships still exists.

With these definitions of language and communication we can explore the meaning expressed through relationships that lay beyond symbolic languages. We are no longer bound to the limits of abstract symbols as the sole means by which meaning is conveyed. We can also see how a narrow definition of language can limit our vision of meaning by cutting off communication from all the relationships that exist outside our traditional ideas of language. With a limiting lens we could also be conjuring up unreal ghosts by distorting meaning through a lens that distorts or obscures the intended meaning – in other words; losing the real meaning in translation.

With the idea that meaning comes from relationships and communication from shared values, we can know that because substance water is built on relationships that it also conveys meaning. We can know that if relationships are the origin of meaning, and we deny this, that we would not understand the message conveyed through water because our lens is not properly tuned to decode the meaning. To the contrary, our abstract lens could by definition be tuned to block the real nature of the communication of water. With relationship as the origin of meaning we can look at the whole of reality as an expression of meaning instead of as a mere process devoid of meaning except perhaps within the domain of what we call human consciousness or biology. We can then use this lens to explore the meaning expressed through the relationship matrix of reality to better understand ourselves and what fulfills us.

Consider the following facts: Since we are real, everything we are is, by definition, a product of reality. Because we are alive and aware, reality is alive and aware, at least to the extent that we are. Because we plan, act with intention and arguably some measure of choice, these are also factors that govern at least a portion of relationships in reality. Since we generate and perceive meaning, this is a property in reality as well. Because we use language and shared values as the means by which we express meaning and communicate; language and communication are also products of reality. The real question is not whether meaning exists, but to what extent meaning exists and is communicated. Is the communication and perception of meaning confined to our own particular biological form of existence, or is it part of the fundamental properties of relationship that define reality itself.

If we embrace the possibility that meaning is a fundamental part of reality we must also embrace the notion that reality is making a statement that we may be unaware of because we artificially limited the notion of language to the sole domain of an infinitesimal fragment of specific human biology-in an unremarkable corner of the cosmos. This narrow idea is perhaps comparable to the once held view that earth was the center of the universe. We have since discovered with the aid of telescopes that the earth centric, human centric perspective was built on arbitrary and narrow assumptions that limited our understanding. It is to our benefit that this self-limiting idea did not weather the storm of empirical discovery as our lenses improved. With the aid of better telescopes, the microscope and other tools we have discovered that earth is not even the center of the solar system much less the universe and humans are a non-essential part of a much greater web of relationships that includes many forms of biology, the planet, fundamental forces, space-time and so on.

As creatures that are dependent on specific relationships for biological coherence we are inseparably dependent on a much larger system of relationships. This relationship matrix is a statement of meaning. It says something about us and what fulfills us. If the relationships that define our existence are stressed beyond their capacity to render the sustained environment of nourishment on which our existence depends, we cannot exist in our current form. This means something. The lion’s relationship to the zebra and the heart’s relationship to the kidney are also statements of meaning. The fact that plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen while we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide means something. A whole new world of meaning opens up when we expand our vision to include ourselves as part of nature, rather than mere observers of it, and that means everything.


[1] For a perspective on this narrow definition of language (not being used here), look up the terms; “biolinguistics”, “Noam Chompsky”, and “Minimalist program”.

[2] For more information on language as a hardwired human trait look up the term; “universal grammar” and “foxp2 gene”

[3] This search for the grandmother has been largely disproved over the years and the brain is currently thought to be built on a vast network structure of connections rather than specific neurons that contain single memories.

[4] For examples of communication between cells look up the term “cell signaling” and “quorum sensing”.

[5] For more information on the structure of verbal/symbolic language in general look up the terms “linguistics” and “semiotics”.

A Different View of Reality

Reality

Photo credit: nualabugeye

The fact that nothing unreal exists lays at the foundation of a realistic view of reality. Although we can dream up castles of verbal abstraction that aggressively step beyond the bounds of reality, every expression we actually translate into a real event is inseparably bound to the possibilities and limitations afforded to us by reality – plus and minus nothing. The fact that boundaries exist at all tells us the only way we can navigate effectively is to understand the possibilities and limitations of reality with clear vision. It can be a tricky business to recognize, much less utilize all the possibilities in the engine by which we move through this cosmic stew. Multiple layers of influence interplay to produce a delicate symphony of behaviors that constitute a system. Systems are the linguistic expression of reality. When wishful thinking, false assumptions or ignorance govern our perspective, it comes with a side dish of ineffective navigation – a prison without walls that traps us in an unsatisfactory state of poverty. To explore reality on reality’s terms, we must leverage clear vision to develop a better understanding of ourselves and to use this understanding as the map with which we can navigate to a more satisfied state of being.

If we look at the spectrum of philosophies that craft the current assortment of lenses humanity navigates reality with we see that they range from partially open to virtually shut. Some of us see a deep and narrow perspective. Others see a wide and shallow one. In order to craft a lens that renders a true picture we must use extreme caution not to be too liberal or sparing, neither can we allow obstructions to transform clarity to chaos. The lens that is best suited to the task of seeing reality in its true form is reality itself. Because of this we must unflinchingly question the foundations of every assumption we hold without respect to tradition, authority or personal experience in order to have our best shot at a clear image.

With all of this it is clear that something fundamental is missing from our typical view. While most recognize that reality is a statement of possibilities and limitations, the key point often missed in this is that reality is a statement. Reality communicates. To understand reality’s voice we need look no further than the relationship processes through which it expresses itself; systems. The language of reality not only speaks to us about the possibilities and limitations with respect to who we are and what fulfills us, but we are part of the conversation. Here is one example:

As biological creatures we are inseparably dependent on a delicate balance of very specific relationships both within our numerous biological systems and between those systems and the external environment. Both our internal and external relationships must be tuned to nourish the various biological processes toward a narrow range of conditions in order to be satisfied.  Imbalance in the relationships we depend on to be fully nourished can damage or destroy the system. A wide variety of internal elements such as light, space-time, atoms and molecules, cells, and organs as well as external elements are involved in the process. We ride on the wave of a complex community of specific cooperative interdependent relationships. How well or poorly we cultivate this communal environment on which our biology depends defines what we experience as life.

One of the clarion calls speaking through the fabric of biology is that of community. Each of the various elements of relationship we depend on in our overall biological system requires a particular set of relationships with the local environment in which it resides – a community. A brain cell cannot continue to function as a brain cell if it is outside the communal womb of other brain cells. This same context of relational dependence on community exists at all levels of biology. For instance, as human beings we depend on specific kinds of social contact in order to realize our most nourished and satisfied state of being. It is only when we are connected to the whole context of nourishing cooperative relationships that we are then able to effectively navigate to our most satisfied state of being.

When we explore the fantastic spectacle of relational communication pouring out of reality we soon see that the primary means of expression is through systems. Galaxies and stars all the way to atoms and sub atomic particles are elements of relational systems. Biology, ecosystems and social relationships of all kinds are also examples of systems. Whether these systems maintain integrity or disintegrate depends on the tapestry of relationships within them. The same way our individual cells must operate in the context of their place in order to contribute to the community as a whole, each of us must find our place in the community of the larger body of life. This is the cornerstone to finding ourselves, and our fullest measure of fulfillment.

Playing Our Best Hand at Life

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Each of us is dealt a blended hand of biology and circumstance from which patterns of behavioral rituals emerge that largely define our experience of life. This crucible of biology and circumstance comes through a combination of heredity and the influence of a complex conspiracy of environmental factors. Heredity could be said to be a set of long term behavioral rituals that have been selected to negotiate the environment over time. Environmental factors range from hormonal signals communicating to us in our mother’s womb, to caretaker behaviors, local climate and culture or traumatic events. This blend of natural and “nurtural” elements shapes the lens we are launched from the womb of childhood with to navigate our world. Our lens may or may not be tuned to reveal the way to a satisfying experience of life, much less motivate us to cultivate all the relationships necessary to support one. On the contrary, some of us are dealt a hand with a mud speckled lens and the destructive momentum of exaggerated stress, abuse, abandonment, cruelty and exploitation. With this malicious hand shaping the tools with which we navigate, many of us are inclined to live out our fate as a mere reflection of the caustic droplets of relationship poverty we were exposed to – never knowing how to cultivate choice – never knowing how to play a better hand than the one we were dealt.

Our developmental environment sets the tone for the way we see and behave in the world. Our lens inclines us to see what we were taught to see. The behaviors we were exposed to incline us to behave as an ambassador representing the interest of recreating the same environment we are familiar with, even if that environment is destructive. Children raised in abusive environments seek out and cultivate abusive relationships as adults. This is not because they rubbed their hands together as children dreaming of one day graduating from “abuse school” and launching a career in the exciting field of abuse; it is because the abusive emotional brew that they were exposed to inclined them to think and behave in ways that perpetuate that same relational dynamic. Because the signals we pick up to navigate relationships with are both subtle and complex, many people do not understand their own role in perpetuating them. Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, perpetuating the behavioral hand we are dealt are what we biological creatures do best.

Animal biology and behavior is magnificently tailored to nurture successive generations to carry on the species. If a species is predatory or parasitic, this is what they both express and preserve. If a species is built on a symbiotic foundation of mutually nourishing relationships, this is what they express and preserve. If a species contains a blend of predatory, parasitic and symbiotic behaviors, that is what they express and preserve as well. There is a fantastic preservation insight that churns underneath the outward behavioral expressions of biological creatures. Biology demonstrates a depth perception and an astounding awareness of how to preserve a particular behavioral climate over time that is far deeper than most creatures are capable of recognizing in terms of conscious self-awareness. This lack of awareness includes most of the human population at this point in time.[1] Even more than this, conscious self-awareness is not sufficient by itself to manifest choice. It can be an accurate map, but it is not the whole journey.

The monarch butterfly cannot explain its migration strategy. It cannot explain why it eats what it eats or breeds successive generations with specialized roles, each geared to migrate on a partial leg of a journey that spans a number of monarch lifetimes. It cannot explain the depths of its own genius to collectively act as singular cohesive unit that preserves the species as a whole. Collectively they are a profound unity of behavioral relationships that preserves the status quo in ways it does not understand.

The leafcutter ant cannot say how it learned to cultivate a fungus on a bed of leaves to feed the young ants that help continue the colony. It cannot say how it farms a specific bacterium that secretes chemicals that serve to protect the fungus from pests and molds. It cannot say how it learned to cooperatively build and ventilate a massive intricate lair that is optimized for the colony’s survival – or how it divides tasks among its citizens by producing specific amounts of specialized ants that support a sustainable equilibrium. The next generation of queens cannot say how they learned to save a portion of the fungus, or how they learned to fly in search of a mate to start a new colony when the time comes. They cannot say how they know to build a new nest to bring another colony from one individual to a community of millions cooperating as a whole to continue the cycle over time.

The wild dog cannot say how it how it learned to feed its various hungers for air food and reproduction, or how those particular hungers were established. It cannot say how it learned to sense its order inside the pack or with other creatures in the natural world. The vast conspiracy of signals that shaped its state of being flowed out unnoticed from the darkened depths of nature and nurture. Many biological creatures cannot describe the strategies through which their complex behavior patterns are arranged and preserved, neither are they aware of the depth perception with which they view and interact with such a broad swath of nature. “Blind genius” is perhaps an accurate way to describe it.

The intricate behavioral patterns that emerge from environmental influences in the crucible of time which preserve the status quo are largely unknown to the very creatures that express them. Even humans, with our capacity for abstract thought are far more able to report on what happened than we are to craft an intentional happening from a slightly enhanced state of awareness. From an outward perspective looking in we can observe a vast collection of relationships that are aligned with the intention of carrying a species forward in time. We can also see how human culture follows this same form by conspiring to preserve ideas based on what has already been established without respect to whether they service something fulfilling or destructive. If we are influenced so heavily by accidents of circumstance, is it possible to play a better hand than the one we were dealt?

Our heredity, coupled with our upbringing, can be like the sting of the Jewell Wasp which immobilizes a cockroach into a zombie state. Unable to move of its own volition, the cockroach is led to be slowly eaten from the inside out by the wasp’s offspring. Some of us can become like the zombie cockroach, stung by circumstance, unaware that what we think and do is not a matter of choice toward fulfillment, but a complacent slave to our own destruction. Like so many other biological creatures, we can be complex expressions of blind intention that act to preserve a destructive behavioral norm and yet; we can be simultaneously unable to exercise a choice that effectively changes the outcome.

In the game of poker players are dealt a five card hand which they keep hidden until everyone takes turns putting bets on how likely they think their hand will win against their peers. The betting continues until someone matches rather than raises the previous players bet. On the surface the game would fall prey to the person with the best hand on average over time, if it were not for the bluff. Someone can behave differently with their bets than what would make sense if only the strength or weakness of the hand was the factor. Placing a bet that implies a better hand can bluff others into “folding” leaving their money on the card table to protect them from losing even more than they have before the betting pool went up. This element of bluff changes the entire dynamic of the game. It is also a metaphor we can use to point to the real location of choice in our lives.

While we are bound in many ways to circumstance by virtue of the hand we are dealt, we also have some wiggle room if we learn to act with intention. The profoundly dark genius on which our behavioral strategies are executed to preserve and propagate more of themselves are largely hidden from many of us. As a result, some of us flow on the currents of circumstance without much in the way of capacity for choice. Unless we first learn to recognize the behavioral momentum on which we ride we cannot become self-aware, and unless we behave contrary to any destructive elements in the midst of that momentum we cannot move toward a greater state of fulfillment. We must become more aware, and use that as a springboard to make intentional choices.

Some of us think we make choices and navigate life when in fact we are only blindly echoing the characteristic smells, tastes, and urges of our particular brand of biological stew. We experience a brew of motivating factors in the form of such things as hormones and neurotransmitters and the like. Along with our physiological structure, these biological factors drive our behaviors and set the tone for the relationships we develop – and collectively, what we experience as life. We can be equipped to execute with precision skill, maneuvers that cultivate a depleted and impoverished state of being. We can also effectively act as agents that infect and carry a disastrous collection of behavioral practices outward to multiply across more biological territory. In other words; we can easily pass our poison on to our family and community the same way we pass our genes on to our children. The same way rabies takes over a mammalian host and destroys it as the means by which it preserves and replicates more of itself, we can blindly carry out and propagate our own destructive state of being by virtue of the biological circumstantial hand we are dealt.

It is critical to understand how the biological motivation machine we are equipped to navigate with works if we are to move with intention in any other direction than the one we came equipped with. If we are diminished by the behavioral momentum of destructive circumstance we can sink below the surface of our own capacity for self-awareness and blindly participate in the dark genius of relational cultivation that leads to our own dissatisfaction.

Many of us mistakenly think that we make choices when we don’t. When we recognize a biological signal like thirst and respond by getting a drink. We might think; “I’m thirsty, I will get a glass of water”. This is not a choice. What we have done in this case is reported what our biology has spoken to us after dutifully following what it has instructed us to do. Mistaking our words as the driver of our behaviors when they are actually a byproduct of what our biology compels us to do hides the true nature of choice. Just because we wrap some words around an experience doesn’t mean we made anything near a choice.

If the relational climate we grew up in was peppered with cycles of betrayal and stress, we will continue to preserve and cultivate this selfsame experience throughout life because our biology will be tuned to move us in that direction. Our state of awareness can become a whiney reporter and explainer of the painful events that are driven by our own biological queues. We can blindly cultivate powerful destructive influences that shape complex social environments without recognizing our participation in the painful consequences that follow. We can do this with the same blind and amazing depth perception with which an ant colony interacts with the social environment based on its biological queues.

Our biology tells us what we are thirsty for and how to act to satisfy that thirst, but our thirsts can be hijacked to be aligned around a diminished experience of life. Depending on what we experienced in our developmental environment, our biology could be thirsty for unfulfilling destructive relationships. We too can become the cockroach that received the signals that lead it to willingly participate in being devoured to feed the next generation of parasitic wasps. We reflect the natural and “nurtural” aspects of the environment we grew up in unless we learn to cultivate choice, and choice is not as easy as it might look on the surface.

Understanding the mechanics of real choice is much like understanding the game of poker. We have to first understand what our biology is inclined to do. We must also recognize that our biological momentum cannot be altered without some disciplined effort to deviate from the message it sends. In other words; to choose something other than what we are already inclined to do, we must do what we don’t feel like! If we are inclined to cultivate a destructive climate, it means we need to act contrary to our feeling as the sole driver of our behaviors.

If we make an honest assessment of what we are inclined to do based on the expressed behaviors of our current and prior generations we can see our culture in general has all three of the behavioral dynamics of nature; parasitic, predatory and symbiotic mutually nourishing ones. Of a certainty mankind currently has parasitic and predatory elements clearly expressed through our macro behavioral climate. Some governments war over resources or turn a blind eye to injustice rather than find the best equilibrium of sharing that maximizes shared wealth, some businesses drain multitudes for the aggrandizement of a few. The parasitic and predatory cultural memes we express are often perpetuated through a process of hijacking the emotional mechanics of the masses the same way a Jewell Wasp hijacks the biology of a roach to turn it into a willing zombie or rabies spreads in a mammalian population so that it participates in its own destruction to preserve the destructive element.

To believe the macro behavior of our collective culture is not built on the collective tide of micro cultural environments is delusional. In this same respect, to think that any of us are immune to the effects of the dark genius of biological inclinations is also delusional. The solution must be grassroots because the problem is also grassroots in nature. Individually we have to begin to grasp what drives us and make effective disciplined choices to steer our behaviors in directions that are more built on a mutually nourishing symbiotic center, otherwise we will continue to experience the backhanded poverty of parasitic and predatory behaviors. We also need to join together in mass to collectively address the larger manifestations of destructive behaviors on larger social scales. To behave contrary to what we feel is necessary if those feelings incline us to move in destructive directions. If we are not centered on cultivating a network of nourishing symbiotic relationships we will continue to be agents of the preservation of our own diminished experience of life. This is the only way we can establish real choices that lead to fulfillment in the midst of a cultural climate that is partly poisoned with poverty generating elements.

The discipline to do this is not a passive activity. We cannot expect to somehow be rescued from the devices of our own biological momentum without effort. Our persistence must be greater than the resistance until we have firmly established a more nourishing center of biological momentum. Based on an honest assessment of where we currently are, we need to step beyond ourselves in the same way that the well placed bluff of a poker player is the only way to steer the game toward a more positive outcome. This is also the only way to play our best hand as a species and a planet sized body of life.


[1] 2013

The Rules of the Game of Life

the eighth blot of the Rorschach inkblot test

The eighth blot of the Rorschach inkblot test.

Knowing the rules of a game is necessary in order to achieve the possibilities that emerge as a function of the rules. At the same time rules create limitations through boundaries, they also enable the possibility of much greater achievement. With a common language or at least a translation bridge built on specific rules, the value of meaning and purpose can emerge where it otherwise wouldn’t exist.

When we begin to explore the sources from which we acquire the rules for what could be called “the game of life”, we see that much of it is not clearly defined or well organized. A few things are fairly apparent; “Look before navigating traffic”, “Be prepared for the weather”, but the vast majority of life rules is a mushy hodgepodge of murky ill-defined soup. Indirect communication is the mainstay of the ink that spatters on our map of life. No one ever sits us down and explains the vast majority of things we learn to hold as true and use as a rudder to steer our experience of life. The rules leak into our state of awareness from between the lines, underneath the text and from the margins. This inky spatter can look like a Rorschach inkblot test onto which we can project any number of things. We sometimes learn to conjure demons that aren’t real and do battle with them drawing our peers into our imaginary fray. We can paint villainy and virtue on our social landscape without respect to fact, built only on the word salad we learned to concoct without a firm understanding of the destructive outcomes which we blindly drive.

Some life rules that drain our potential can only be teased out of the darkness and understood with great effort, and that is just to identify them. It says nothing of being able to change the disciplines that powerfully steer our behavioral communication. An even greater challenge than understanding the complex intertwined shadings is translating them into an intentional move toward a fulfilling state of being. Each of us is equipped with a set of rules – how we think things work, what is attractive, what is repulsive. Many of these are unstated. Here are a couple examples of what is meant here by unstated life rules:

Unstated life Rules #416: I was brought up in an environment with an unpleasable tyrant. I learned without words to believe that it was my job to please the unpleasable tyrant. I got the message that they mattered, and I did not. I would attempt to do this by tiptoeing around their violent moods, or running around frantically when they barked a command or if I thought they wanted something. They behaved as if their satisfaction was the centerpiece of my life and I wholeheartedly believed that rule at the same time I felt rejected and hopeless. I lived with frequent bouts of stress, disappointment and self-loathing because I thought I failed and I was a failure. As a grown person I blindly looked for those same kinds of relationships. When I found someone who was like that or who I could mold into a tyrant I proceeded to bleed myself in a futile attempt to make their insatiable lives happy. Again and again I failed, because that is who I was – a failure.

Eventually I bred with someone of this tyrannical caliber and found my offspring subjected to the same poison environment that crippled me. I fooled myself to think that I could somehow compensate. Eventually, after much angst, I got away. I made sure no child of mine would know that their needs and their self-esteem were not important. Out of this combination of partial delusion and avoidance I unwittingly produced the very tyrant I thought I escaped from. I did not realize that my sacrifice to give everything came with an unintended gift: Unrealistic expectations that would cause the the very tyranny I ran from. It was no pleasant ride for my offspring either. They were geared up for a lifetime of frustration built on unrealistic expectations and a failure to grasp that fulfillment can only come from sharing and receiving a balance of nourishment within a community. By the time I realized my horrific error – that I had fallen in the same trap – more accurately never left – I was unemployed as the primary means of shaping the identity of this tyrant whom I thought I loved so much. As they set off on their own road of destruction I prayed that somehow the cycle would end. I watched helplessly as they repeated the same cycle of destruction with a fresh coat of glittering delusional paint. My knowledge that abuse is an engine with two pistons instead of one came too late, and the momentum of destruction continued…

Unstated life Rule #417: To protect my destructive tendencies I confuse painful but accurate observations that would improve my life with hurtful insults. Because of this, I don’t face facts that would help me lead a more fulfilling life so I continue damaging myself and others and buff my shiny armor with a gritty polish made of self-righteousness and imagined offense.

Unstated life Rule #418: My behaviors undermine the very things that nourish my life. I am well aware disease can take over a body and destroy it to serve the disease, but it doesn’t occur to me that this is exactly what is happening to my life and that I actively perpetuate the destructive course. Because I don’t see this, it doesn’t occur to me to reach out for help. Should any help happen to come into my life, I am repulsed by it. In addition to being infected, I am contagious. I transmit the same disease I carry to others who are vulnerable. I falsely think my problems are because the world doesn’t behave the way I think it should. I portray myself as a victim and rather than take responsibility for my own role in shaping life, I diminish and destroy myself and others because of my infection. Rather than bring balance, I swing the pendulum from one extreme to the other.

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The point here is that the belief systems we pick up are often very subtle. It is important to realize that we are not human “knowings” – we are human “beings”. So much of who we are is shaped by being in the moments we have been and those in which we are, not by whether or not we have the capacity to understand the depths of that being, nor its power to shape what we experience. The truth can set us free, but it does not render itself to the casual observer.

Self-discovery is a product of committed and sustained action. The truth that emerges is not a flattering companion that respects our feelings. It simply is what it is – an unvarnished look at what we do and what that doing means – and that can be the hardest truth of all to face. It is also the only way we can understand that a fulfilled life demands balance. Too much water drowns us, too little dehydrates us. The end result is the same – destruction. The center of the target is the goal. To miss the mark in any other direction merely brings more imbalance which is the very nature of dis-ease. And balance is the real rule of the game of life.

Awareness: Much More Than We Think

It’s easy to assume our choices are based on what we think. “I am thirsty” we

Rendering of human brain.

think, and go get a drink. Our conclusion; we do what we think. Not so fast! While words are part of the story of human awareness, it’s only part of the story. In fact, just because we’re able to string a few sentences together doesn’t mean these ideas have anything to do with self-awareness, much less an accurate and comprehensive view of who we are. As we begin to peer deeper into our overall state of awareness we begin to see a much different picture. One way to see this deeper vision of ourselves is to explore the work of Édouard Claparède, a Swiss neurologist and child psychologist.[1]

Over a hundred years ago Claparède happened to be treating a patient with amnesia. Because of brain damage, she was unable to remember anything longer than 15 minutes. During one of their daily and sometimes multi-daily introductions, Claparede hid a tack in his palm and pricked the patient when they shook hands. The patient of course “forgot” the incident, but the next time they met, she refused to shake Claparede’s hand. When asked about it she couldn’t explain why even though, to her, this was the first time they ever met.

As human beings we tend to focus on verbal understanding as the primary form of memory and all other aspects seem more or less as support systems for this verbal memory. Words can be very seductive. We define our self-identity using words. It’s easy to miss that much of our memory and the motivations for our actions are outside the field of vision of our verbal state of awareness. Our awareness is composed of so much more than words. There are many different memory systems at work even within the normal human brain and awareness extends past the brain alone. One extra brain, complete with its own nervous system, is our stomach, called the “gut brain”. It is often in bidirectional communication with our “other brain”, but it can be thought of as a separate individual.[2] This brief glimpse into just how deep and far flung our overall state of awareness is can tell us that real self-awareness in verbal terms, begins with understanding that many of the most commonly held beliefs that so powerfully steer our lives are never put into words, not even to our self.


[1] For more information on this read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Clapar%C3%A8de

[2] For more information on this read the article in Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199905/our-second-brain-the-stomach