Red Poppy, White Poppy. Different Colours, Same Flower

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Solve All the Problems

781px-White_PoppyJulian Fantino, the M.P and Minister who is closing Veterans Affairs offices across the country, has come out swinging against pacifists. This former police chief, who has never been ordered to put his own life on the line for his country, claims the white poppy is “an offensive attempt to politicize Remembrance Day.”  Whether I wear a red poppy or a pink delilah, it is irresponsible for a Minister of the Crown to make negative attributions about a group of law-abiding Canadian citizens and claim they all intend to insult veterans. It takes a lot of balls to accuse pacifists of ‘politicizing’ Remembrance Day when the Harper Tories use every government tool at their disposal as a potential campaign ad, including Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/07/31/tories_empty_tribute_to_canadian_soldiers.html

Allow me clarify what a white poppy means to me. It means I’m sick of being lied to. The…

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Terrestrialism 101

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Having introduced the concept in a previous post, it occurred to me that I had not defined Terrestrialism. I guess there are two core principles. The first is the premise that we are all connected by interdependence. We have symbiotic relationships with billions of microorganisms that populate our bodies and similarly, billions of mammals have a symbiotic relationship with the Planet Earth. There seems to be a fractal relationship between these two levels of interdependence, which seems to support the premise “As above, so below” that one finds in theosophy.  This is not to say that I “believe” in theosophy or accept its other tenets – I don’t – but I am willing to entertain the possibilty that there maybe some truth here.

This is where quantum theory comes in.  According to quantum mechanics, the observation of any system causes it to change and ideas like quantum entanglement suggest that particles really can be in two places at once.  I can hold the idea in my head the possiblility that perhaps the earth is an inert object and perhaps the Gaia hypothesis is correct at the same time.  The symbiotic relationships that living organisms have with one another becomes clearer everyday as we observe habitat destruction leading to mass extinctions, like a row of dominoes falling over.  There are some who suggest that the fundamental fabric of the universe is not related to the Higgs boson, but consciousness itself. Like quantum superposition, in which a particle can exist in all its possible states, only to be actualized in any of them when measured, I can entertain the idea that maybe it is consciousness that connects us all, and maybe its something else.

Fortunately, we don’t need to know which underlying theory is correct in order to make decisions in our daily lives. This is because of the other key principle of Terrestrialism, which follows naturally from our interdependence and reflects the core values of all the major religions. The Golden Rule is not a difficult rule to follow but it becomes problematic when you realize how many people treat themselves badly. I would prefer to express the idea as “Do No Harm” to oneself or others.  This non-aggression principle does not mean turn the other cheek to any kind of abuse, as there is a right to self defense. However, aggression for the prevention of greater harm is where the thin edge of the wedge gets shoved in and wars are defended as righteous.  That hasn’t worked out so well, so maybe we should attempt to curtail that impulse.

What I am wondering, and feel free to help me out here, is whether Terrestrialism might be a missing link between science and religion or a kind of bridge between the two.  The Terrestrial umbrella, since is covers every living organism on the planet, even the germs, is a club that all the scientists and all the religious belong to. I think it is helpful to express this kind of solidarity with our co-habitants because it will take all our efforts to solve all the problems that human activity has created on this planet .

I Fracked My Brain

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Solve All the Problems

This random insight hit me as I tumbled into bed two hours too late last night, having written 6 blog posts in 2 days. No recreational drugs were involved in this effort, not even caffeine. It was as if I turned on the spigot at a well into which thousands of bits of information had been pumped, building up the pressure. All the little bits of evidence that the world is going to hell in a handcart were shoved together inside a brain not quite big enough to hold it all, and now the flow has reversed.

I’ve been dismayed by the wide variety of problems we face today, and the inability of people to just connect the dots and realize that our children’s children are in grave danger and we need to do something about that before its too late. Divisions between any two groups on this planet are…

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How to Save the World

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Solve All the Problems

EarthRenderPoliticians always seem to campaign on “jobs” and the economy, but this is like knocking on someone’s door to talk about Jesus while their house is on fire. Although many of us have met our basic requirements and are striving to reach our fullest potential, many more are falling behind, and seeing our disposable incomes shrink.  What is of even greater concern than rising income inequality – but connected to it by the same cause –  the planet we live on is becoming less and less able to provide for our most fundamental needs.  This is because we have poisoned our biosphere to the point that clean air and water are incresingly scarce. We have collectively “sinned.” The word ‘sin’ has the same root meaning as the score in archery when you literally “missed the mark.” The correct response to this sin is not punishment or vengeance. The only sensible…

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Saving the World in your Spare Time

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I recently set up a facebook page for a little project.  Having read enough self help books to get the message that its all about what you focus on, I thought it was time to set some goals. I have some modest personal goals, but the experts seem to agree that you shouldn’t limit yourself, so my big goal is to save the world. Yes, that’s right,  save the freakin’ world.

Years ago I used to have lunch with a co-worker and we seemed to be able to come up with a solution to just about any global crisis in the 20 minutes we took to eat. We had great ideas, but we didn’t have any power or influence, and there was no internet back then.  I don’t think the average person watching funny cat videos really understands the game-changing potential of social media.  North Americans are a really apathetic bunch, for whom the Arab Spring was a blip on the evening news, indistinguishable from the mindless babble about the idiocy in Washington.  The mainstream media has become hopelessly inept at informing people about things that really matter, and people seem rather slow to catch on to ways to find credible information online beyond wikipedia.  However, that trend is starting to shift and I think we’ll reach a tipping point in the near future, when people wake up from this trance.

When that happens, and it will, they might want to make a few changes.  Such as, for starters: demanding clean energy and rejecting dirty fuels from tar sands and fracking.  demanding protection for our water suppies, reclaiming the food supply from Big Ag, , enforcing sensible rules to keep greedy bankers from using our pension funds as casino chips, getting corporate money out of the political process and rebuilding our trashed democracies, because corporations are NOT people – a person has a conscience, a corporation does not. Perhaps when they do the math on the military-industrial-prison-complex, voters will finally pull the plug on warmongering and eradicate hunger. Providing universal health care would cost only a tiny fraction of the U.S. defense budget if the profit margin was removed from that equation.  When people come together and develop some momentum it will be easy to work for the emancipation of women and children worldwide, promoting social justice and stewardship, saving forests, oceans and all the crucial ecosystems that support life on this planet. Have I bitten off more than I can chew?  Perhaps, but all these problems urgently need to be solved. If I hack away at it from my perch in Toronto and other people start challenging the status quo from where they are, eventually a dent will be made.  Watch a few TED talks and you begin to believe that amazing things are possible. I’ve decided that its time to start tilting at windmills and the internet allows me to connect with other naive/crazy idealists who want to join in the same struggle.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m sleeping. The world would be a better place if more of us acted on our crazy dreams. This morning I started another facebook page to gather stories of the ordinary people you don’t hear about on the mainstream news.  I want to collect the stories of people who used to be middle class, but had their lifestyles downsized.  I want people to see the gaps between the least and most highly compensated employees in the companies they work for, and how much wider that gap is growing each year. I propose that we have a winter of discontent in 2014 in order to spread the news of how broken our ‘civilization’ is because if you don’t know its broken, you won’t fix it.  The goal is not to focus on the negative, but to take a close enough look that the path ahead become obvious.  Getting clear on the problems is the first step in their solutions.  So lets gather the problems on “Connect ALL the DOTS” and then map out the future on “Solve All the Problems.”

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Connect-ALL-the-DOTS/244043472413348

https://www.facebook.com/solvealltheproblems

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The mainstream media – owned almost completely by a handful of for-profit corporations – says there is nothing you can do to bridge the growing wage gap in giant corporations.  What if the people decided that this obscene inequality had to end and demanded that their legislatures (municipal, state/province, national) enact  laws mandating that the minimum wage in all companies operating in that jurisdiction was pegged to the highest salary?  What if you took the CEO’s salary, including stock options, bonuses and other perks, and divided by, say 100, to set the minimum wage in that company?  In this scenario if the CEO makes $200,000 per year all in, the lowest paid receptionist or janitor makes an hourly rate that would pay $20,000 per year based on a full-time work week.  The result would be that full-time workers recieved a wage they could actually live on, even if they were working multiple part-time jobs. Can we gather support for this idea online?  I’m not anti-capitalism, but I’m offended by the abuses of unrestrained greed. There used to be a very important concept in American political life called “checks and balances.” Its time to dig that idea out of the closet, dust it off and put it to work.  Who’s with me?

Welcome to my Brain

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Welcome to my brain. It often underperforms and I’m a bundle of silly contradictions. I was a quick study and got good grades, yet the starter marriage lasted 10 years because I’m a slow learner in other ways. It has taken a very long time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I still don’t have a label to put on that idea, but as a psychology student, I now have a helpful metaphor. I want to be a neuron. I want good ideas to flow through me as cleanly as electrical impulses along an axon. The technical term for that process is called an action potential, which reminds me that gathering knowledge is pointless unless it produces a result.

Each connection between two neurons is called a synapse and some neurons have more than others. I’ve been soaking up information for almost half a century. Every book I’ve read, every conversation with another person represents the flow of information from one neuron to another in a “brain” that ultimately spans the globe. You may have noticed that there are a large number of unhelpful bits of information zooming around the world, like: “you suck if you don’t buy this stuff you don’t need.”  People with better ideas, like “how to save the biosphere” and “be excellent to each other” need to be able to reach more people and send new and improved action potentials around the world. The growth of social media makes this more do-able than I could have conjured up in my wildest dreams as a high school student.  My goal is to explore the neural metaphor and figure out how I can use it to make the world a better place beyond anything we think possible today.

I want to begin by passing along some data from two other sources. The first is this short (1:49) monologue from the beginning of the film Antz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIv-FUarVWU  An ant voiced by Woody Allen rambles to the conclusion that he is insignificant. I love that clip. I could relate to the little critter’s frustration and I laughed at his hubris even as I recognized it in myself. I thought I got it, but later input made me realize that my understanding was incomplete.

The first time I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I found it difficult, but I knew I would go back to it. When I started reading Tolle’s next book, I found it was time to re-read The Power of Now and this time I got it. Tolle’s ideas are brilliant, but challenging in a way that you cannot crack with intellectual effort. What helped me understand my “ego” as Tolle defines it, was that life had kicked me in the teeth hard enough that I was on the ground. I was such a bundle of internalized pain that I had to let go of my unhelpful mental constructions just as you might let go of the barrel of a curling iron you didn’t realize was plugged in.  What Tolle patiently explains is difficult to grasp. You are not your thoughts, your emotions, your pain, your most brilliant ideas, or even your dearest memories.  You are consciousness.

We need to let go of unhelpful ‘knowledge’ in order to understand things more fully.  For example, you are a person with your own unique DNA and think of yourself as a single, discrete, sentient being.  However, although you have control of your consciousness, you are actually more like a colony or world, because your intestinal tract contains billions of tiny micro-organisms who depend on you for survival and without which you could not long survive.  Food isn’t just fuel, it is also information. Perhaps this is why your gut contains more neurons than your brain.

We don’t think of bacteria as having consciousness, but our standard medical model of consciousness is very limited.  If you’re sleeping or in a coma, you are unconscious, if you’re awake you are conscious, like an on/off switch. We are beginning to understand that there are different levels of consciousness.  If I were to tweet a picture of a chocolate donut, what level of consciousness would I be expressing?  What is your level of consciousness while you sit on your sofa watching a talk show or a football game or surf funny cat memes on the internet?  What is your level of consciousness when you are removing a splinter from your finger or digesting a TED talk?

What kind of a neuron do you want to be?  When you see an image of screaming, excited sports fans, don’t you wonder what would happen if they got that excited about something that really matters? War happens, but whose consciousness is really being expressed in that context? What if all that sports fan energy could connect online and create a counter-movement to restore balance against the destructive force of unrestrained corporate greed? What kind of action potentials could we generate?  People in the millions are beginning to appreciate what a game-changer the internet really is. To those who say you can’t beat the system my response is this: we’re already creating a new system.

If you look around you’ll see action beginning to blossom all over the world in places like Egypt, Turkey and Brazil. The March against Monsanto, 350.org, Grow Food Not Lawns and Occupy Love all reflect an increase in the level of our consciousness as a species. The education and emancipation of women is an important part of a much larger shift that is underway. In the world I want to be part of, we will create a way to bring all our best ideas together and share the responsibility to implement solutions to the most frightening problems we face as a species. There are millions of ways to do this. We don’t need to pick one or argue about which will work. There are enough of us to support all of these efforts simultaneously. The democracy we have lost will bear little resemblance to the one that we have yet to create.

The neurons in our bodies perform thousands of operations per second in order to keep us alive, mostly beneath our conscious awareness. If we pay no attention to what we eat we end up with diseased bodies.  However, if we direct our attention we can intentionally eat brocolli, dance, and climb mountains. On a global level, we can save the world if that is our intention, but first we need to direct our attention in the right direction. Honey Boo Boo isn’t helping.