January 20th, 2014

The first step in solving a problem is knowing that you have a problem. Scientist David Suzuki tries to help us understand exponential growth and overpopulation with a 3.5 minute story from the laboratory. …  This problem cannot be solved by any one individual. It will require us all working together.


September 2nd, 2013

Wisdom is where you find it. …  This morning’s article was originally published in the magazine Common Ground in 2004.


Is the Universe friendly?

Geoff Olson

Albert Einstein once said the most important question a human being can ask is “Is the universe friendly?”

Think of that for a moment. How would you answer? If you think the universe is truly friendly and supportive of you, this obviously has a huge effect on your perceptions and behaviour. The same applies if you think cosmos is hostile – or just indifferent to your fate.

On a first reading, Einstein’s question is trivially true. If you’ve decided, consciously or unconsciously, that the universe is friendly, your positive outlook is likely to be mirrored by positive responses from others, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy about your world being fundamentally good. You are likely to have more friends, job offers, etc. Conversely, if you are suspicious by nature, or walk around with a cloud over your head, you’re not likely to be much fun at parties, although you may win nodding approval from fellow grumps. At the very least your life is likely to seem a series of disappointments. This is pretty self-evident stuff. From Ralph Waldo Emerson to Dale Carnegie to Wayne Dyer, most of us have heard the drill: life is what you make it.

But if it’s Einstein talking, there’s a good chance there’s more to it than this. Spend a bit of time on it, and you realize the question’s depth. This goes far beyond the soothing homilies about high self-esteem, or the pieties of religious dogmatism. This is about whether universe is friendly (unifiable, consoling) or unfriendly (neutral, fragmented, hostile, “other”). From the choice you make, you can extrapolate the direction of subsequent life decisions. Your state of being could evolve from the answer to that one all-important question. But bear with me; because it’s a big topic and this essay is all over the map, from childhood psychology to the pest problems of a Hollywood star author, to the paradoxes of cosmology and quantum physics, to the “angel” in the library.

The choice to believe in a friendly or unfriendly universe undoubtedly begins in our early years. It may well be that people who are preternaturally content, seemingly at peace with themselves and the world, were introduced to “a friendly universe” through proper nurturing as infants. Their early experiences became the foundation for their psychic life. The results of less desirable childhood beginnings are also obvious. If a child suffers a traumatic birth, and/or their parents abuse their natural trust, that individual may grow up extrapolating their experience to the whole of existence, always suspecting the worst and failing to trust in others.

Rev. Gerard Pantin is the founder of Service Volunteered for All (SERVOL) in Trinidad and Tobago. In a speech he gave in 2000, he noted how the Yequana Indians of Brazil make sure that their babies are in physical contact with the skin of another human being 24 hours a day for the first two years. “These children grow up without that emptiness that we modern people spend our lives trying to heal or cope with. A lot of our modern preoccupation with ‘feeling good’ through sex and drugs dates back to the fact that the way in which we were brought up didn’t give us the opportunity of feeling good about our infant bodies.”

Citing Einstein’s famous line, Pantin adds that “Yequana children, because of close bodily contact, not only see the universe as friendly but feel it to be loving.” Beginning with a bodily, visceral sense of an all-embracing love, the Yequena don’t intellectualize over whether the universe is friendly or not; they carry within themselves the felt conviction that they are loved beings.

That’s all well and good, a skeptic may say, but we live in a modern, fast-paced world where such bonding is difficult with our busy schedules. We have to “compete in the market,” after all. Besides, what real difference does how we feel about the universe actually make to how it really is?

Well, as they like to say in political circles, perception is reality. Sometimes we need reminding how much our expectations drive what we experience. Sci-fi author Michael Crichton supplies an amusing example in his 1988 memoir Travels. In the early seventies, flush with success from spinning his novel The Andromeda Strain into a critically and commercially acclaimed film, he bought a home in the hills of Los Angeles. A friend asked him if he was afraid of the snakes. “What snakes?” the author asked. The rattlesnakes, of course, which his friend told him, come out in force during the dry season.

Crichton returned to his magnificent new home in a complete funk and didn’t have any fun at all. He just looked for snakes. “I worried that snakes were sneaking into my bedroom, so I locked all the doors every night to keep the snakes out. I thought snakes might come to the swimming pool to drink the water, so I avoided the swimming pool, particularly in the heat of the day, because the snakes were probably sunning on my deck. I never walked around my property, because I was sure there were snakes in the bushes. I walked only on the little path on the side of the house, and I peered around every corner before I turned it. But, increasingly, I didn’t like to go outside at all. I became a prisoner in my own house. I had altered my entire behaviour and my emotional state purely on the basis of something I had been told. I still hadn’t seen any snakes. But I was now afraid.”

One day he saw his gardener tramping fearlessly around the property. The author asked if there were any rattlers in the area. Sure, his gardener replied, especially in the dry season. Wasn’t he worried? The gardener shrugged and said he’d only seen a rattler once in over six years. He simply went and got a shovel and killed it. Only one snake in six years? Crichton’s mood brightened. In rational terms, there was really nothing to be worried about. He sat by the pool for the rest of the day. As the gardener was leaving, he told the author he could be sure there were no snakes on the property, because Crichton had so many gophers.

Gophers! The very critters that the recent homeowner had spent weeks setting traps for, trying to poison, and taking potshots at with his air rifle. All to no effect whatever. “Each morning fresh gopher burrows crisscrossed my lawn. It was extremely frustrating. My house looked like National Gopher Park.” Crichton began to rethink how to deal with the tunneling terrors, and eventually the gophers’ mortal enemies came to mind. “Was there anything I could do to attract rattlesnakes to my house? Put out some favourite rattlesnake food, or some dishes of water?”

Thinking back on his conceptual gymnastics over pest problems, Crichton realized he went through a whole series of changes without ever actually seeing a snake. “I felt different only because I had shifted perspectives,” he noted, at one moment hating gophers, the next fearing snakes, the next hating gophers even more and wishing for more snakes. “Each shift in perspective was accompanied by a total change in my attitudes, the physiology, my behaviour, my emotions. I was immediately and wholly modified by each new perspective that I adopted.”

If a person can change their mind-body state that radically over something as mundane as snakes and gophers, imagine what choosing between a friendly or unfriendly universe might mean to their state of being.

Westerners aren’t like the Yequana; we demand empirical evidence for one point of view or the other. And there’s certainly no shortage of confirmation for an unfriendly universe – or unfriendly planet, at least. All you have to do is to pick up a daily paper. The universe doesn’t seem to have been too friendly recently to the women and children in Sudan, or the rest of Africa for that matter. And that’s just the cruelty humans regularly visit upon fellow humans; earthquakes, floods, volcanoes and other natural disasters dispatch thousands yearly. Randomness reigns. If there’s anything friendly here, it seems to have the same sense of humour as Mike Tyson.

And as far as mainstream science goes, some intellectuals insist it promote the idea of cosmic indifference, which is pretty much the same thing as unfriendliness from a human point of view. One of the central concepts of orthodox evolutionary theory is that humans are the products of blind chance and selection. Like all other creatures, we’re Darwin’s wind-up toys, entropically rolling around in a meaningless cosmos, duking it out for resources and mates. In this view, our purpose is no more than biological: eat, breed, and die. If you can call that purpose.

As cosmologist Steven Weinberg famously concluded in his book The First Three Minutes, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also
seems pointless.” Yet this scientific-materialist philosophy doesn’t have to necessarily result in despair over our apparent lack of purpose here. Some intellectuals exult in the freedom this philosophy offers from the strictures of organized religion and other apparent superstitions. But others aren’t so sanguine. As physicist Nick Herbert put it in a bit of doggerel:

Some suffer from a bone-deep fear
That matter’s all that matters here
That love and hate and pretty faces
Are naught but atoms changing places.

But is modern science really so unambiguous in its assessment of a lack of purpose for sentient beings? Astronomers now tell that the fundamental constants of the universe (for example, the electron’s charge or the rest mass of the proton) are precisely set at just the right values to allow the emergence of life. This so-called “anthropic principle” has been endlessly debated by academics. Some physicists see it as evidence that, as Princeton University’s Freeman Dyson has it, “the universe must know in some sense that we were coming.” Others say the anthropic principle is no more than a tautology – a universe hostile to observers wouldn’t have anyone sitting around wondering about such things. A trendy new theory in cosmology is that we live in a fathomless “multiverse,” with universes popping into being all the time, and we just happen to be – we can only be – in one of the lucky ones.

Try as you might, it seems damnably impossible to settle Einstein’s question about a friendly universe with absolute finality, at least in any intellectual sense. If you believe that this plane of existence is all there is, and that death rings down the curtain for your little playlet, you might have some difficulty believing this universe is anything other than indifferent. Philosopher Bertrand Russell once said our knowledge must “build upon the solid bedrock of uncompromising despair,” but does this represent the heroism of unflinching realism, or an existential seed program for psychic and cultural implosion?

Either way, the unfriendly proponents can trot out innumerable historical anecdotes to make their case, from the fall of Greece to the rise of Nazi Germany. When whole societies decline, faith doesn’t necessarily protect the faithful. In fact, it’s often the faithful who are the problem, with “God’s children” killing God’s children.

This is bigger than a simple question of religious belief (after all, there are plenty of fear-driven fundamentalists who believe in an unfriendly universe presided over by a smite-happy deity). Ultimately, it seems to come down to taking a leap of faith, and choosing to buy into one universe or the other. Einstein didn’t say the universe was or wasn’t friendly; he said it was the most important question a human being can ask. It is what you choose to believe that is critical. And here’s where things get really interesting, because choice has a very, very, interesting relationship to the quantum world.

A fundamental experiment in quantum physics involves shining a beam of light at a barrier with two open slits. Some of the light gets through the barrier, forming an interference pattern on a screen. This indicates light has the property of a wave. Yet if you close one slit, leaving the other open, the light appears as just a single shaft of light built up photon by photon on the screen, which indicates that light has a particle property.

Forget for a moment that no one has ever truly figured out how light can be both a particle and a wave at the same time, things which are as different as baseballs and Bach fugues. The critical part is that how it behaves depends upon the experimental setup. Ask nature a question a certain way, and you get a certain answer. (According to quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg, “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”) Recent variations on this experiment, where scientists try to “trick” light by changing the testing apparatus while the photons are in flight, have only led to the spooky conclusion that the light behaves as if it knows what the experimenters are up to. That seems like a pretty nutty interpretation. The one marginally less nutty alternative, favoured by most quantum physicists is that our intentions seem to drive, in large part, how certain physical phenomenon manifest to our consciousness.

In other words, the nature of the question determines the reality you perceive. Our choice plays a critical role in determining the outcome of a situation in our local space-time – at least for experiments with photons. If our choices have this kind of dynamic going with the quantum world, the question then becomes how deep does this craziness run? Scientists insist such paradoxical phenomena are limited to the nano-world of the quantum. At larger scales, they are smudged out by the cancellation of a huge number of differing quantum states. It’s called “decoherence,” and it prevents the Alice in Wonderland weirdness of quantum physics from erupting into the kitchen, boardroom, or lab. Yet with the discovery of “microtubules” in human neurons, there is some evidence that the human brain may actually process some information on a quantum level, which may or may not reopen this whole can of worms for the macro level of reality.

So what does this all mean? Is the universe the ultimate Rorschach blot, with the meaning only what we read into it? Or is there something even more interesting than this going on?

From “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics to the research into parapsychology at Princeton and other universities, it is apparent that the simple push-pull, subject-object model of reality is no longer tenable. What we are discovering is that sentient beings bring a profound level of participation to the construction of reality. Of course, the create-our-own-reality idea has been around for some time, but the situation may be more subtle, and even stranger, than we think.

How far does consciousness go in determining the reality we experience? Earlier, I remarked on some remarkable experiments in physics that demonstrate the bizarre role played by the observer/experimenter, and how the nature of their inquiry conditions the answer received. In a 1978 lecture, author John Michell took this idea one step further, describing what he saw as the universe’s habit “of reflecting back ideas projected onto it, of seeming to provide positive evidence for any theory that can possibly be formulated.” He claimed you could test it for yourself. “Take the wildest idea imaginable, commit yourself to believing it, become obsessed with it, and you’ll soon find all kinds of evidence turning up as confirmation of it.”

“This same risk is notoriously inherent in all occult studies. If one is studying a subject intensely, particularly if writing about it, ideas on that subject from unknown sources flood into the mind, and phenomena connected with it may even intrude into one’s life, as the raven of Edgar Allen Poe intruded upon the midnight scholar.”

According to Michell, this phenomenon infects scientific research. “The great Charles Fort gave several humorous instances of the same experiment yielding two different results, each one gratifying the experimenter.” Recently, the same problem has been noted in parapsychology investigations into the “sense of being stared at.” PhD psychologist Dean Radin notes the hair-raising possibility that the scientific world picture may be in large part an extremely robust consensual hallucination, cobbled together by the participatory nature of our collective consciousness with the physical world.

“The universe is so generous that it gives to anyone, crank, scientist or religious believer, the evidence which confirms his particular belief or theory,” wrote Michell.

If there is any merit to this meta-mad idea – and it may be worthwhile to entertain it for a while before you choose to discard it for its crazy consequences – it means we need to be very choosy about what we believe in. There is more at stake than just our choice of words; it means we can power our delusions and fantasies far more than we previously thought. That sounds like the royal road to the loony bin – the old line that “neurotics build castles in the sky, but psychotics live in them” – but according to Michell there is more to this than just the “delusory tendencies in the universal feedback effect.”

“I now come to the interesting part, the way in which the effect can be used creatively,” he said. “Study a subject, allow it to obsess you, ask questions of it, and next time you visit a library, a bookstore or a friend’ s house, you may pick up the one book in the world which gives the answer you were looking for. Coincidences can be invoked. I have asked many writers about this, and nearly all of them were able to give striking personal examples of being helped by this useful aspect of the feedback effect which Arthur Koestler attributes to library angels.”

After reading through a score of library cases, wrote the late Arthur Koestler, “one is tempted to think of library angels in charge of providing cross-references.” Koestler was the one who put the seraphic spin on this particular species of good fortune. His library angel will be no stranger to many writers, readers and researchers. Whether she’s sister to serendipity, or just cousin to dumb luck, she seems to make her appearance at the moment when your guard is down. You’re either idly seeking some piece of trivia, or giving up on some search through the stacks, when suddenly the right book or magazine falls at your feet open at the right passage. The sign of a friendly universe, or just a playful one? Or just a misinterpretation of chance events?

In Notes From a Small Island, travel writer Bill Bryson tells of his own encounter with the library angel, after pitching a story to a travel magazine on, of all things, extraordinary coincidences.

“When I came to write the article,” Bryson writes, “I realized that, although I had plenty of information about scientific studies into the probability of coincidence, I didn’t have nearly enough examples of remarkable coincidences themselves…” After writing a letter to the magazine saying he wouldn’t be able to deliver, Bryson “left the letter on top of his typewriter to post the next day,” and drove off to his job at The Times of London. Here he saw a notice on the door of an elevator, altering staff to the literary editor’s annual sale of review copies sent to The Times. “The place was full of mingling people. I stepped into the melee and what should be the very first book my eyes fell on but a paperback called Remarkable True Coincidences. How’s that for a remarkable true coincidence? But here’s the uncanny thing. I opened it up and found that the very first coincidence it discussed concerned a man named Bryson.”

Of course, given the millions, if not billions, of variables that interact throughout the course of the day, it’s impossible for there not to be the occasional coincidences, which are no more than that. But every once in a while some whopper drops on your head that gives you doubts. When a highly unlikely textual coincidence occurred to astrophysicist Jacques Vallee during a Los Angeles cab ride, he was inspired to consider the nature of chance. Pondering the equivalence of energy and information, Vallee decided “we live in the associative universe of the software scientist rather than the sequential universe of the space-time physicist.” Which means our focus on a given idea or emotion may be like performing a cosmic file request.

The library angel and related phenomenon suggest something like a Google-search aspect to existence, or, to use a different metaphor, that the universe occasionally behaves the way an author does with the characters in his or her novel. This brings us back to Michell, and what he concluded from all “the hermetic quality of the universe, the way it will respond to desires implanted in it and reflect back images projected onto it.” Michell said that “we are all, individually and collectively, responsible for the world as it really is, which is how we experience it.”

“In terms of objective fact there is little to choose between any cosmology, traditional or scientific,” he insisted, a claim that is even more radical than the postmodernist deconstruction of truth, and one that I have some problem with myself. But this doesn’t have to lead to a nightmare of relativism, because reality construction is a largely a collective act, according to the author. Since we get back what we project, why not believe in the best option? (Paranoia is the belief that the world is out to get you. Pronoia is the suspicion the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf. )

“Evidently therefore it is to our advantage to regard this best of all possible universes, this fascinating organism of which we are part, with the most high-minded expectations in the knowledge that as we imagine this world and our relationship to it, so it will become.”

A good argument for believing the universe is friendly rather than unfriendly? You may not be convinced, but then, neither am I (If the reader has doubts, that goes double for this writer). But considering the potential return, I’m willing to go with it, even if Michell’s idea seems somewhat Pollyanish – the “best of all possible worlds” lampooned by Voltaire in his novel Candide. It’s also an idea fundamentally alien to the materialism of Western thought. In any case, the straightforward idea that our thoughts have consequences in the world we live in is beyond argument. Whether it’s a cantata or a cruise missile, every cultural artifact we humans have conjured into physical existence began as a dream in someone’s head.

But how do we jibe Michell’s sentiments with declining living standards, species decline, resource wars, and environmental breakdown? It appears Homo sap is in for a serious ass kicking from an episode of When Good Biospheres Go Bad. If conscious intent plays this much a role in the universe we live in, we’ve apparently been thinking some very bad thoughts for quite some time.

This brings us to the nature of the world we’ve created, which some would cite as evidence for an unfriendly universe. But who imagined it into being? From the feudal-era heathen-beating by the Holy Roman Empire to the structural adjustment programs of the International Monetary Fund, westerners have built their lifestyles to an great degree on the suffering of others. The Christian God, the first deity we conquered under, was imagined by believers as alternately beneficent and wrathful. The second god, capital, has its own bipolar disorder.

In the 1920s, German sociologist Walter Benjamin recognized the religious dimensions to the worship of money. “It (capitalism) is a religion because it is based on faith – untested and unproven by the individual acolyte – in materialism and rationalism. It is a passive worldview, a negative theology,” he wrote. (We can replace the neoMarxist scholar’s “capitalism” with “crony corporatism” if we like.)

Although he wasn’t directly addressing the topic of belief in a friendly/unfriendly universe, it lies at the heart of his thesis. “Disbelief in any spiritual reality is also a belief system,” he noted. “The capitalist mind perceives the world purely in terms of material resources to be used for its benefit, to increase productivity and profit without thought of long-term consequence. If there is still a vague and oppressive sense of guilt, of wrongness and imbalance, this gnawing guilt spurs capitalism on to greater acts of consumption, more violent attempts to subjugate nature, more totalizing efforts to create distractions. To the “rational materialist” mind, death is the end of everything, and this thought feeds its rage against nature, which has placed it in this position of despair. The destruction of the world is revenge against a vanished God, and a drastic attempt to invoke the spiritual powers.”

“Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement … The nature of the religious movement which is capitalism entails the endurance right to the end, to the point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope. Capitalism is entirely without precedent, in that it is a religion, which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction. It is the expansion of despair, until despair becomes a religious state of the world in the hope that this will lead to salvation.”

Decades before the resource wars of the present day, Benjamin insisted “the destruction of the world as the real goal of world capitalism – its systemic hope and transcendent ideal.”

That may seem more than a bit extreme, but these musings may have even greater resonance now than they did in Benjamin’s time. We seemed to have reached a spiritual brick wall in our secular ways of thinking and feeling. The ads don’t deliver, the politics don’t heal, and the science doesn’t connect. We know all too well the damage that organized religion can do, but we’re also beginning to understanding the destructiveness of our financial – corporate networks and the military-industrial complex that protect their interests. It’s not that there are no options – it’s that the marginalization of these options fuels a profound despair, along with a growing sense that we have passed beyond the point of no return. Ironically, this despair is likely to feed the addictions, violence, clinical depression, endless distraction, and retail therapy that is already ingrained in North American culture, encouraging further its monstrous
consumption of resources and human potential.

This is the true horror of the world we have imagined into being. If children are not nurtured properly in homes where true love prevails, and are raised in a culture endorsing deceit and a Darwinian competition for jobs and resources, a “friendly universe,” one they could have otherwise internalized as emotionally real for themselves, may elude them all their lives.

In the so-called First World, we seem to have dug ourselves into a God-sized hole. But the First Law of Holes is to stop digging. If there is some vast consciousness that dreamed this whole shebang into existence, one thing we embody from Him/Her/Whatever is a spark from the fire of creation: the power to choose, to imagine, and to dream new worlds into being.

But remember the quantum experiments I cited earlier, and the lesson from light: often, the way in which we ask a question is inextricably bound to the reality we will be answered with. At the end of her book on remote viewing experimentation, Multidimensional Mind, Dr. Jean Millay summed up how consciousness can become an active partner with the world we inhabit. The final sentence of the book is highlighted in script, so the reader recognizes its importance: “Real magic can be created by maintaining a steady focus of intention through an appropriate belief system.” Don’t believe it? Consider that a single shlumpy guy in a baseball cap may help swing the next US election, through a documentary that was released domestically against all odds. If Michael Moore’s not one person creating magic, I don’t know what is.

The universe manifests in many forms, from sunsets to soccer hooligans, seemingly supplying us with abundant reason to decide either which way. The answer we decide, ultimately, is intimately connected to our own deepest level of being. According to the scientific picture of the world, the very chemical elements of our bodies were cooked up in the hearts of supernovae; we have a certain identity with the universe itself. And throughout history, in certain “occult” branches of mainstream religions – Kabala, Sufism, and neoPlatonic traditions – there is the radical idea that our existence is neither accidental nor alienated from its source. In these traditions, the immense variety of creation is simply an itemized efflorescence of the divine. At bottom, there is no otherness to the foundation of being – although we have the free will to think or believe otherwise.

I suspect our answer to Einstein’s question involves nothing less than the universe answering itself, through the agency of the human heart and mind. Will our decision, yes or no, mean we will receive the kind of subtle verification Michell speaks of? This isn’t an experiment for the Royal Society or the National Research Council; it’s a subjective test each person must perform on their own.

But it’s a tricky question. There is a line from transcendentalists like Walt Whitman and Emerson to the practitioners of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to the “looking out for number one” ethos of self-advancement, which has created a philosophy of winning at all costs. The results are obvious. The problem is that conflating the ego, rather than the self, with a rewarding god or universe has mostly been a recipe for disaster.

Albert Einstein is not on record as saying the universe is actually friendly or not; he concerned himself with the importance of asking the question. As in the theory of relativity, the position of the observer is fundamental.

Einstein was as much a philosopher as he was a scientist, and he was more interested in the meaningful answers than cold abstractions. His desire for an ultimate unification of knowledge included life, human nature, human intelligence and human personality. As author Charles Hansen pointed out in The Technology of Love, the question Einstein posed was deceptively simple, “but it becomes the most profound of questions, for it has no meaning outside of human observation, of all that humans are, and all that we might become.”

The storm that brews on the horizon, the flag that whips in the breeze, the hand outstretched by a stranger, the gaze of a lover; whether we’ve projected our self into the skies or onto our nation, or through the pupils of a fellow human being, the same question brews for all of us: are you friendly or not? Storms occasionally destroy property, friends sometimes betray us, and government doesn’t always have our best interests at heart. But what if you add it all together and ask the universe as a whole? Perhaps the answer depends on the way you put the question.


Geoff Olson is a Vancouver writer and political cartoonist, you can visit his website here.

August 12th, 2013

I will be teaching this coming Saturday, August 17th, in Pacific Grove, CA, join me if you can. I will be discussing The 5th Force in Universe and Enlightened CommUnity. Here is a link to the announcement.


Enlightened CommUnity

Timothy Wilken, MD

As we enter the second year of the second decade of the twenty-first century, our human species is in crisis. Every human knows we are in crisis. The evidence is all around us and fills the stories of our daily lives. Descriptions of this crisis fill the front pages of our newspapers, dominate the television network’s nightly news broadcasts, are the obsession of cable network’s talking heads, and provide the focus for countless blogs on the web. Our current human behavior, and our current methods of organizing ourselves are helpless in solving our problems. Our old ways of behaving and our old ways of organizing our communities are proving to be obsolete. They cannot solve our problems; in fact, they are the very cause of most of our problems. If we are to surmount our human crisis, we will need to change our behavior, and change the way we organize our communities.

Today, our problems are so difficult that they are overwhelming our individual abilities to solve them. We are rapidly entering into a state of what I call individual overwhelm. It is becoming increasingly difficult for modern humans to solve their problems as separate individuals. But what is difficult for individuals working separately is often much easier for individuals working together. Instead of asking, “How can I meet my needs and solve my problems,” we must learn to ask, “How can we meet our needs and solve our problems?”

I am a synergic scientist. The word synergy derives from two Greek roots: erg meaning “to work,” and syn meaning “together;” hence, the term synergy simply means working together. Synergic science is simply the study of working together. It is a relatively new science, but it has produced a powerful new understanding of human behavior and of human organization. Synergic science reveals a relatively simple solution to our human crisis. That solution requires that we work together and act responsibly.

The human behavior that best supports acting responsibly is called Enlightenment. The natural attributes of enlightened humans — kindness, compassion, calmness, peace, tranquility, intelligence, genius, wisdom, and goodness — insure responsible action. Enlightenment changes individual human behavior.

The organizational pattern that best supports working together is called CommUnity. When individuals form a CommUnity, they discover that they can accomplish much more by working together than they can by working separately. CommUnity utilizes synergic union. Examples of synergic union include operating together as in co-operation, laboring together as in co-laboration, acting together as in co-action, creating together as in co-creation, and thinking together as in co-intelligence. These examples of synergic union require shared motivations, shared emotions, shared intelligence and shared knowing. CommUnity must be structured so that the process of working together fosters shared values, shared goals, shared dreams, shared hopes, shared responsibility, shared commitment, and of most importance, shared authority. CommUnity changes collective human behavior. To solve today’s problems and exit our current human crisis will require nothing less than the creation of Enlightened CommUnities.

Read a 70 page overview and summary of the concept of Enlightened CommUnity on PDF.

August 5th, 2013

This morning’s author is one of my favorite scientific philosophers. This article is re-posted from the Nov/Dec 2010 Issue of Tikkun.


Nature Has a Mind of Its Own

Christian de Quincey

The great American psychologist William James had just finished a lecture on the nature of reality when a little old lady approached him. “Excuse me, Professor,” she said, “but I’m afraid you’ve got it all wrong. The world is really supported on the back of a great big turtle.”

The venerable professor, being a gentleman, decided to humor the woman: “Tell me, then, what is holding the turtle up?”

Quick as a flash, the old lady snapped back: “Another turtle, of course.”

“And what’s supporting that turtle?” James asked, trying gently to get her to see her mistake. The conversation went on like this for another round or two until the little old lady interrupted with a noticeable tremor of exasperation:

“Save your breath, sonny. It’s turtles all the way down.”

Image "TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN" BY KENNETH ROUGEAU (KENNETHROUGEAU.COM).At least so the story goes (though some associate it with Bertrand Russell instead of William James). True or not, the “turtle” incident illustrates a fundamental intuition we all share about the nature of reality: Something can’t come from nothing. Something must “go all the way down” or all the way back. Even the Big Bang must have had some kind of “fuse.” (Religions, of course, say it was God.)

James was teaching around the turn of the last century, but the little old lady’s point still carries force. In the modern-day version, turtles are replaced by consciousness. The question now is not what is holding the world up, but where did mind or consciousness come from? In a purely physical universe, the existence of mind is a profound puzzle. And if we are to believe the standard scientific view on this, then mind emerged from wholly mindless matter. But just how this occurred remains a complete mystery. In fact, in Radical Nature, I make the case that it couldn’t happen without a miracle. And miracles have no place in science. Instead, our best option is to revive the old lady’s insight and proclaim that “consciousness goes all the way down.” Mind has always existed in the universe. Cosmos — the world of nature — has a mind of its own.

Searching for the “Soul Line”

What’s the greatest mystery facing every person on the planet? Ultimately, it’s some version of the age-old “Where do I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” And these questions, which lie at the heart of all philosophy and religion, can be summed up as: “How do I fit in?” How do we humans (with our rich interior lives of emotions, feelings, imaginations, and ideas) fit into the world around us? According to science, the world is made up of mindless, soulless, purely physical atoms and energy. So far, no one has a satisfactory explanation for the existence of nonphysical minds in this otherwise physical universe.

We lack an explanation because our questions already assume something quite disturbing. We assume we are split from nature. We assume that humans are somehow special, that we have minds or souls while the rest of nature doesn’t. Some of us draw the “soul line” at higher animals and some of us draw it at living organisms; few of us draw no line at all. Ask yourself: Are rocks conscious? Do animals or plants have souls? Have you ever wondered whether worms or insects might feel pain or pleasure? Can trees feel anything at all? Your answers will reveal where you are likely to draw the line.

In philosophy, this is called the “consciousness cut.” Where, in the great unfolding of evolution, did consciousness first appear? In contemporary philosophy and science, the cut-off is usually made at brains — if not human brains, then the brains of higher mammals. Only creatures with highly developed brains or nervous systems possess consciousness, so the scientific story goes.

Because of our assumed “specialness,” because of the deep fissure between humans and the rest of nature, and because of the mind-body split, we need a new understanding of how we — ensouled, embodied humans — fit into the world of nature. Our current worldview, based on the materialist philosophy of modern science, presents us with a stark and alienating vision of a world that is intrinsically devoid of meaning, of purpose, of value — a world without a mind of its own, a world without soul. And this worldview has had dramatic and catastrophic consequences for our environment, for countless species of animals and plants, and for the ecosystems that sustain us all. To be more specific, here’s an outline of just some of those consequences.

Ecological crisis: Our environment is being rapidly destroyed. We are right now experiencing a widespread, global crisis of unprecedented proportions involving climate disruption, global warming, and the destruction of rain forests, along with their precious biodiversity. We are now in the midst of the sixth major species extinction since life began on our planet. According to some experts, 50 percent of species currently alive will have disappeared by the end of this century.

Technologies of mass destruction: Through science and engineering, our civilization has developed awesome technologies of destruction (some intentional, some not). Potent nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threaten the survival of our species, and much of the rest of nature, and many “benign” technologies produce unexpected side effects that pollute and degrade our atmosphere and environment.

Deep alienation: People are alienated from nature. To grasp just how divorced we are from the natural world, imagine trying to find your way home from another town, or even just across town, using only natural landmarks (without following maps or street signs). How sensitive and attuned are you to the natural landscape in which you live? How much has been blocked out, even obliterated, by the constructed environment of tarmac, concrete and steel?

Such alienation leads to all kinds of personal and social problems — for example, people feeling split from their own bodies and from other people, often unable to integrate their emotions and feelings with their rational minds, often becoming (or at least believing themselves to be) some kind of social misfit. How many people feel at home in their own bodies or feel comfortable at work, with their families, and with strangers? Millions struggle to search for meaning in a meaningless universe.

Where Do We Turn for Answers — Science or Religion?

Unfortunately, modern science and philosophy are a major source of the problem: their basic story or worldview is “materialism” and they understand the world as made up of “dead atoms.” According to science, human consciousness “emerged” from dead, insentient matter. Nature itself is without any intrinsic meaning, value, or purpose because it has no consciousness. For science, there is no spirit in nature. Humans are at odds with the rest of the world — we are intelligent; nature is dumb. By an accident of nature, we are special.

However, science may be seriously mistaken when it asserts that consciousness is a product of complex brains, and that the rest of vital nature is a product of mindless, purposeless, unfeeling evolution. We may not be so special.

And, as for religion, conventional doctrines promise a reward in some afterlife. They do not teach us to look for meaning in nature. God is supernatural, transcendent, above and beyond the world. Yet we are all conscious beings, aching for meaning. We want meaning in this life.

In times of crisis, such as the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe or the Gulf of Mexico fiasco, people are much more likely to wonder about God’s relevance and participation in natural events. The idea that nature has a mind of its own means that the natural intelligence of the world — unlike a remote God of the skies — is not preoccupied with exclusively human concerns. Larger forces are at work in the world, and it serves us to pay attention and recognize that we are integral parts of nature, that the divine is all around us, and that humans do not get any special treatment.

According to many forms of religion, we are special by divine fiat. God gave us souls, so that we may survive and transcend the inevitable corruption of the flesh. Human consciousness, spirit, or soul is separate from the physical body, and the path to meaning and salvation is through prayer to a remote, transcendent God. Attention is focused elsewhere, either toward the heavens or toward priests, rabbis, or mullahs.

But the path to the sacred may not be through clergy or churches. In my experience, the sacred is all around us in nature — I experience it while watching a sunset, playing with animals, walking through a forest or on a beach, swimming in the ocean, climbing a mountain, planting flowers or vegetables, filling my lungs with fresh air, smelling the mulch of rich nourishing soil, dancing through crackling autumn leaves, comforting an injured pet, embracing a loved one, or holding the hand of a dying parent.

The most direct way to God, I believe, is through touching and feeling the Earth and its inhabitants — being open to the expression of spirit in the most ordinary, as well as in the most awesome, events of daily life. The way to meaning in our lives is by reconnecting with the world of nature — through exuberant participation or through the stillness of meditation, just being present and listening. And when we do so, we hear, we feel, and we learn: we are not alone — we are not uniquely special.

For the most part, neither mainstream science nor conventional religion recognizes that humans are not essentially different from the rest of nature. Both regard matter and the world as “dumb.” Both assert that human beings are somehow special and stand apart because, they say, only human beings — or at least creatures with brains and nervous systems — have consciousness or souls. On the contrary, I say, consciousness goes all the way down.

Mind: The Big Mystery in Evolution

I first became fascinated with consciousness as a seven- or eight-year-old kid in Ireland. The trigger event was discovering an entry on “evolution” in my father’s tattered encyclopedia. An old line drawing of a dinosaur caught my attention: not only was I descended from my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, but the entire human race evolved from some ape-like ancestors, who came from even more primitive mammals, who came from reptiles, who came from amphibians, who came from fishes, who came from jellyfishes, who came from clumps of cells, all the way down to bacteria-like single-celled “infusoria,” as they were called in the encyclopedia (which tells you how old it was). I was astounded to learn that my earliest relatives were bacteria!

I spoke the word aloud, enjoying the onomatopoeia — “e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n.” It sounded like a great unfolding, a rolling out of hidden forms, now mimicked in the way my tongue uncurled from the roof of my mouth.

Then something astounding grabbed me: not only was I mesmerized by images of descending species culminating in this young fella sitting there at that moment reading a big, dusty old book, but somehow that stupendous unfolding also managed to produce the ability to look back and contemplate the process of evolution itself. Somehow, somewhere along the line, evolution had become aware of itself.

At what stage did evolution produce consciousness? I had no answers. The encyclopedia gave no clues, and my parents and teachers, it seemed, could hardly understand my questions. They spoke to me of “souls” and “God’s mysterious ways,” and I was left wondering and unsatisfied because, as far as I could make out, they were telling me only humans had souls. But such religious “explanations” did not fit what I had learned from the encyclopedia, nor what I experienced for myself. No, whatever “consciousness” or “soul” was, it was not unique to humans — but how far back did it go?

I grew up puzzled. Not that such questions burned in my thoughts every day; but from time to time I would think back on those dinosaurs and infusoria and wonder about evolution, wonder about the feelings and thoughts pulsing through me and other creatures.

Radical Nature

In this article, and in my book Radical Nature, I call for a radically new understanding of nature. By “radical,” I mean a view of matter radically different from what we learn through science and philosophy. I mean intrinsically sentient matter. “Radical” comes from the Latin radix, meaning “root,” the foundation or source of something. Etymologically, “radical” is related to “radial,” which means branching out in all directions from a common center or root, and to “radiant,” which means, variously, filled with light, shining, sending out rays of light, emanating from a source, manifesting well-being, wholeness, pleasure, or love. “Radical Nature,” therefore, implies nature that is sentient to its roots, composed of matter that feels something of the nature of wholeness and love all the way down, and that radiates, or moves itself, from the depths of its own being.

French Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin suggested something similar in his concept of “radial energy,” which he proposed was the interior source of universal attraction and love between all elements of the cosmos, pulling them toward increased complexity (contrasted with “tangential energy,” the energy physicists work with, pulling in the direction of chaos and entropy).

The standard scientific view, by contrast, is that nature is composed of “dead matter” — so that even living systems consist, ultimately, of unfeeling, purposeless, meaningless atoms or quarks embedded in equally unfeeling, purposeless, and meaningless fields of force. I challenge this materialist view, and claim that not only is it incoherent but that it is also very dangerous.

The notion of human specialness lies at the core of our civilization’s dominant stories. In the grand narratives we tell ourselves — in our cosmologies, and scientific and religious worldviews that try to make sense of the fact that we are here at all — humans are typically the central characters.

But, as I argue in Radical Nature, humans (or even animals) are not the only creatures with minds. The entire world of nature tingles with consciousness. Nature literally has a mind of its own. It feels and responds to our presence.

Consciousness All the Way Down

Contrary to what is taught in science today, consciousness is not produced by brains. In fact you don’t even need a brain to have a mind. All animals, all plants, even bacteria have something we would call “mind.” I’m saying that all bodies of any kind — all matter — has consciousness “all the way down” to atoms and beyond to quarks, or quanta or whatever lies at the root of physical reality. In this view, all of nature, all bodies — from atoms to humans — tingle with the spark of spirit.

This is an uncommon view, called “panpsychism,” and it presents a radical and controversial account of the relationship between bodies and minds, between matter and soul. To be sure, the nature of mind remains a deep mystery for science and philosophy. But success at healing the mind-body split so characteristic of our age depends, I believe, more on a revised understanding of the nature of matter.

In the view I’m proposing, all matter feels, is sentient, and has experience. Matter is adventurous — as it probes and directs its way through the long, winding path of evolution. From its first appearance after the Big Bang — from the first atom, molecule, and cell — to the magnificence and glory of the human brain, the great unfolding of evolution is literally the story the universe is telling to itself. The cosmos is enacting the greatest epic drama imaginable. Truly, it is the greatest story ever told. And we are just one of the storytellers. In the evolution of the cosmos, matter itself is the prime storyteller.

A “New” and Ancient Philosophy

Panpsychism (or what I call “radical naturalism”) tells us that matter itself, from the very start (the Big Bang, perhaps) arrived on the scene already tingling with consciousness. Consciousness is not something separate from matter (as dualism tells us), nor is it produced by matter in the form of brains or nervous systems (as materialism insists). Instead, panpsychism tells us that matter — all matter — has its own interiority, an ability to feel, to have a point of view, and the ability to move itself from within. In everyday street-speak, we might say, “matter has a mind of its own.” In its most primitive form matter is (and always was) sentient, “alive.”

This, then, is the “new” story of the universe and the stuff it is made of. If we are to feel at home in the cosmos, if we are to be open to the full inflowing and outpouring of its profound creativity, and if we are not to feel isolated and alienated from the full symphony of cosmic matter — both as distant as the far horizon of time, and as near as the flesh of our own bodies — we need a new cosmology story. We need a new way to envision our relationship to the full panorama of the crawling, burrowing, swimming, gliding, flying, circulating, flowing, rooted, and embedded Earth. We need to be and to feel, as well as to think and believe, differently about nature.

Actually this is a very ancient idea — one of the oldest worldviews, predating Plato and the ancient Greeks. In my book, I trace the lineage of panpsychism back to before the birth of philosophy — to the ancient tradition of shamanism, in fact. And then I show how, throughout history to the present day, some great philosophers have also shared this view. The philosophy of materialism that dominates our world today is, by comparison, a late arrival — a kind of detour that has run its course.

Minds from Brains?

Modern science and philosophy are in the dark about consciousness. They cannot even begin to explain how consciousness could emerge from the brain. Materialists such as Berkeley philosopher John Searle simply claim it as a given, obvious “fact.” But it is not at all obvious. As it turns out, science is utterly at a loss to explain how this could happen. Indeed, getting spirit-like consciousness from the stuff of the physical brain would require a miracle. But miracles are exactly what scientific materialism denies are possible. In short, for materialism to be true, it would have to be false! Now that’s a real dilemma. As soon as science begins to pay attention to consciousness it runs into a dead end. It draws a blank.

When pressed, neuroscientists typically say: “We don’t have all the facts just yet. One day we will, and when that day arrives, then we can give you the full explanation.” In the meantime it’s “just obvious” that mind or consciousness arises from the immense complexity of the brain, or as Searle puts it, the brain squirts out consciousness like the liver secretes bile. But that’s not science, it’s “promissory materialism.” Materialists would like us to believe their promise that one day they will have “all the facts” to explain the mystery. But asking us to believe without any evidence is “faith,” not science.

And then they point out that science is always progressing, always gaining more knowledge. Isn’t it possible, then, that one day they will have “all the facts”? I don’t think so. And here’s why (I’ll try not to get too technical): According to scientific materialism all of reality is ultimately physical. Reality is objective — wholly and thoroughly. If so, the challenge facing science is to explain how it could be possible — even in principle — for one kind of reality (completely physical and objective) to suddenly (or even gradually) jump to an entirely different kind of reality (one that is subjective and nonphysical): consciousness. That’s where the miracle is required — an ontological jump from an utterly cold, lifeless, unfeeling, and unknown universe to one that now possesses creatures sparkling with life, with feeling, with consciousness. What could possibly account for that “reality jump”?

In philosophy, we call it the “ontological gap” between two radically different kinds of reality. No amount of complex feedback loops in the brain or nervous system can make that jump because all those loops in the brain are themselves still objective — they can be observed, they can be measured, they are physical. Consciousness is notoriously non-physical (you cannot observe or measure it). In short, you cannot get subjectivity (a state of reality with feeling and sentience) from a state of reality that didn’t have the slightest trace of consciousness to begin with. You can’t get something from nothing, as James’s little old lady was at pains to point out. If you begin with “dead” matter, it stays dead — no matter how complex and twisted it becomes.

Philosopher Colin McGinn put it this way: “Somehow, we feel, the water of the physical brain is turned into the wine of consciousness, but we draw a total blank on the nature of this conversion…. The mind-body problem is the problem of understanding how the miracle is wrought.”

The Most Terrifying Story Ever Told

So what? Why should anyone, other than philosophers, care about the mind-body problem? What difference does it make in real life? I think it makes a big difference. As novelist Daniel Quinn noted in Ishmael, we don’t just tell our stories, we enact them. In other words, we live our stories, and we change the world accordingly. In my book, I make the point that all our worldviews, philosophies, cosmologies, mythologies, and so on are ultimately nothing but stories (despite their fancy names). They are ways we have of telling ourselves who we are, how we came to be, and where we’re going. We tell ourselves these grand stories to make some sense of the fact that we are here at all. But we don’t just tell these stories. We live them, we enact them.

Today, we live in a world dominated by the story called scientific materialism, where nature is believed to be made up of “dead” stuff, of lifeless atoms and molecules. Nature has no consciousness, no feelings, no intrinsic value, meaning, or purpose. And so we relate to nature without sufficient respect for its inherent sacredness. We plunder and rape and exploit it, and the consequences are not at all pretty. We face looming crises in ecology, in social systems, and in our personal lives as we struggle to make sense and meaning out of a world made up of cold, mindless, meaningless stuff. In such a world, all life — including human life and consciousness — is just a fluke, an accident. This is an alarming story, and it has drastic consequences.

Bertrand Russell, one of the most respected and influential philosophers of the twentieth century, wrote:

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

This may be the most terrifying story ever told — nevertheless, it is the one we are born into. It expresses the terrible poetry of a meaningless universe, rolling along chaotic channels of chance, blind and without purpose, sometimes accidentally throwing up the magnificence and beauty of natural and human creations, but inevitably destined to pull all our glories asunder and leave no trace, no indication that we ever lived, that our lonely planet once bristled and buzzed with colorful life and reached out to the stars. It is all for nothing.

Such is the plot and substance of modern science boiled down to its bare essentials, a legacy from the founders of the modern worldview, such as Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Newton, and Darwin.

Even if we have faith in a deeper spiritual dimension, somewhere in our nested system of beliefs that story lurks, ready to rob our visions, dreams, loves, and passions of any meaning, of any validity beyond the scripted directions of a blind, unconscious, purposeless plot maker. If something in our experience stirs and reacts to this with disbelief, even with a question, it is surely worth paying attention to because the possibility that that story is wrong or incomplete makes a real difference.

What if that sweeping materialist vision leaves something out? What if there is something other than an “accidental collocation of atoms” at work in the universe? What if, for instance, the experience or consciousness that contemplated the world and discovered the atoms was itself real? What if the ability of “collocated atoms” to purposefully turn around and direct their gaze to reflect on themselves was more than “accidental”? What if consciousness participates in the way the world works? What if consciousness can dance with the atoms and give them form and direction? What if the atoms themselves choreograph their own dance? What then?

In Radical Nature, I explore an alternative story — one where the atoms do choreograph their own dance — a worldview that tells us consciousness matters and that matter is conscious.

Nature Is Sacred

The ancient Greek philosopher Thales said, “Nature is full of gods.” Today, we might say it is full of spirit, full of consciousness. Nature literally carries the wisdom of the world, a symphony of relationships among all its forms. Nature constantly “speaks” to us, and feels and responds to our stories. Simply breathing in rhythm with the world around us can be a potent form of prayer. We can open our hearts and pray to the “god of small things,” for God lives in pebbles and stones, in plants and insects, in the cells of our bodies, in molecules and in atoms. And by connecting with the God of small things, we can discover this is the same as “the god of all things,” great or small. Yes, God is in the heavens, but God is also in the finest grain of sand.

I don’t believe we need priests or churches, rabbis or synagogues, mullahs or mosques, to connect us with some transcendent, supernatural God. In the religion of nature — of a natural God — clergy become shamans, the whole Earth, and the vast cosmos itself, becomes our temple of worship. In nature spirituality, “priests” do not act as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth. Rather, like shamans, our leaders and elders become guides teaching us to listen to the sacred language of nature — helping us open our minds and bodies to the messages rippling through the world of plants and animals, rocks and wind, oceans and forests, mountains and deserts, backyards and front porches.

We need to develop a deep respect for nature because it is the source of everything we are. Like us, all of nature has a mind of its own. And this is because matter is not at all what we normally think it to be. Matter is not dead stuff. Matter feels. The very stuff of our bodies, the very stuff of the Earth tingles with its own sentience. It is time for us as a worldwide community to rediscover the soul of matter, to honor and respect the flesh of the Earth, to pay attention to the meaning, purpose, and value embedded in the world beneath our feet and above our heads. Maybe then, we will save ourselves from the otherwise inevitable ecological and civilizational collapse that faces us within our lifetime. I think we can do it, but first we have to learn to listen.


Christian de Quincey, Ph.D., is professor of philosophy and consciousness studies at John F. Kennedy University. He is the author of Consciousness from Zombies to Angels, Radical Nature, and many other books. He can be contacted via www.ChristiandeQuincey.com.

June 1st, 2013

This interview of educator John Hunter is re-posted from: the School Library Journal.


World Peace and Other Infinite Possibilities

Karyn M. Peterson

If (and when) future generations succeed in saving the world, we may all have John Hunter to thank. The veteran teacher, educational consultant, and author has been inspiring creative and critical thinking, compassion, confidence, and pragmatic problem solving in kids for 35 years through his innovative World Peace Game, his unyielding positivity and optimism, and his intuitive understanding of what kids’ need to succeed.

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At the start of a national tour to promote his new book about his experiences teaching the game, World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements (Houghton Harcourt, 2013), Hunter addressed the crowd at SLJ’s recent Public Library Leadership Think Tank, then sat down to speak to us about unlocking kids’ infinite potential, his faith in kids to improve our world, and how he daily inspires (and is inspired by) his students.

At our Think Tank, you spoke about the lasting impact of even the smallest gestures. Can you tell us more about this concept?

We are completely interdependent; this is what I’ve come to understand and see. Everything I do is important to someone in that room or someone connected to them. So I’m obligated to do the best that I possibly can every moment. I constantly have to work at that every day so that I can be less of a barrier or an obstacle to their learning. My students have come back over decades now to let me know the range and effect of gestures I’ve made, of words I’ve said, of things we’ve done. And I’m sure every teacher has instances like this. So this circle of influence that you might have can be so broad.

What is it like for you to teach at Agnor-Hurt Elementary, and in the Albemarle County (VA) school district? Can you tell us more about your experiences there?

[It’s] one of the best I’ve ever taught in. Pam Moran is the superintendent, and my immediate principal is Michele Del Gallo Castner. They are visionaries, and this is what makes [it] a cutting-edge district. It’s 650 children from all different socioeconomic levels. We’ve got 23 different ethnic groups and languages in that school. And it’s like walking into a river of love every day. You plug into this current of energy that’s so positive, and it’s primarily due to visionary, trusting leadership.

At Agnor-Hurt, we start on the relationship when they come into preschool. So there’s a culture of acceptance, of caring, of compassion, and kindness. When you have that kind of culture, you have kids coming in and, wherever they turn, they’re going to have this kind of support. No matter what situation they get into or what teacher they go to, there’s a unity in the response. Michele is a fierce protector of children. That combination of kindness with that huge protective power and fire for taking care of kids is just what makes the situation just fly. There’s nothing you can’t do as a teacher in that school.

Pam Moran herself walks around taking pictures of all kinds of teachers’ projects and she shares them with all the other teachers in the district…for a superintendent to be doing that [is] rare and unusual. Pam always talks about what she calls ‘caves, watering holes, and campfires’—the places we gather to exchange ideas, and she’s a living example of that herself. She is a great supporter and inspiration.

The center of our school is [the library and librarian] Jamie Chapman and, like you would imagine, everybody passes through [the library], everybody uses it, everybody’s connected to it. That’s a beautiful understanding about schools and the central position libraries hold in them still.

How did your relationship with libraries begin?

Right at the time of integration in our regional area of Chesterfield County (VA), I discovered the public library. The summer before I was to attend my first integrated school—at the age of 12—I had a real hunger for things beyond the norm, I guess in some ways, for a kid from my situation. And I devoured the library; I tried to read every book about Native Americans and science fiction and Eastern philosophy. The library became kind of a refuge, a resourcing place for this great unknown…. It made me feel more a part of what I was going to go into. [It was] a public library and that meant white and black signs were not in the way. I could simply go in and use [it].

Did you always want to be a teacher?

Really, in some ways I’m an introvert who just happens to appear to be an extrovert. There was a moment in Japan—I’m sitting in this 500-year-old cypress wood meditation hall on a bamboo-covered mountainside near the Sea of Japan—and I thought, ‘You know, this is where I should be. I really don’t need to go anywhere else.’ But I had obligations; I had things to do in the world. Had I not been a teacher, I was very inclined to find a place like that and simply go into meditation.

So how do you summon your inner extrovert? Or embrace it?

The foundation was of course, I had a very happy life. My parents were both very sweet and loving, so it was a very quiet family life. And that calm safety that we had in the home made a comfort in the world. And so going out into it, I didn’t feel defensive or afraid.

How that transformed to be more of a performance art, like teaching? Well, it was called for. In a classroom…[you] really bring every tool that you have to the situation. You adapt and become whatever creature you must. You’re an academic and social amphibian; you grow gills when you have to and you drop fins when you have to, to help children be what they need to be.  And playing in a band doesn’t hurt either! I had a studio practice for about 20 years, sound design, ambient music, Waveform Records. It’s still something I do in what little spare time I have.

Do you bring music into the classroom as well?

Absolutely! Some children like it to be quiet, so we’re quiet sometimes, but there may be some Miles Davis in the background, “Sketches of Spain,” something very open and spacious.

I take the children through different modalities of thinking using Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, [with] eight different pieces of music, all within the space of an hour. It’s astounding what they do in that time [and] music is the springboard for that. I want them to have an expanded world, so I’m playing Indonesian gamelan or opera arias or glitchcore from Vladislav Delay, this Finnish DJ—something they’re not going to run into on the radio or around the house.

And the library was fundamental in that, too! In the Richmond Public Library when I was a young man, I would go and check out  records. I listened to Turkish music, to music from the bauls of India. That library was instrumental in my becoming who I was musically.

How has your teaching shaped your vision of the future?

I’m completely optimistic. There is no doubt in my mind that high school students can save this planet completely, in every way. No doubt. They’re relentlessly compassionate. The more we empower those young people to be in charge…the better off we’ll be.

Is compassion the most important legacy of your World Peace game?

How else can we be if we’re going to survive? It’s our fundamental as human beings…preemptively going at things with kindness gives a little bit of ease to every difficult situation we face.

What’s your philosophy of teaching, your approach?

I’ve learned from my teachers, my mentors, that example is better than precept. If I want them to do, believe, think, or be anything at all, I’ve got to do that myself first. They hear a lot of words from adults, but who lives that way? Who can they see that walks the walk, and not just talks?

The second step is [from] my mentor, Ethel J. Banks: think about the line of least resistance. Find out what they love, spend some time finding out who they really are, what they really care about, and then respect it, and build curriculum to and around it. Once the children believe that you believe in them and that you respect what they actually like and are interested in, that’s a huge step. And from that point on, you’re friends for life. They’ll go anywhere with you.

In my classroom…before we even touch [a] subject, they’re so heavily involved and invested thinking that it’s their unit, that they’re in power to control it, their learning…that they feel they can do anything and, with your help, they can do even more than that.

In such a rich learning environment, how do you deal with standardized testing?

Our school has strategies to work with that. I’ve heard [my principal] make a speech to an entire room crammed full of teachers, looking at scores on a big PowerPoint: ‘I picked each one of you. I know you. I trust you. You are professionals, you know what to do. Let’s do it.’  And every year, the scores go way up through the roof. It’s amazing. It’s not a direct correlation; you can’t quantify love and affection and caring. But [the] power of that, for me, is what the transformative effect is at our school.

What inspires you in your life, and in your teaching?

I read ancient texts, all kinds of esoteric stuff that helps me think of things more deeply. And of course, music has always been helpful in doing that. And there’s my teenage daughter, who is better than I will ever be at everything; she’s a huge inspiration.

[Teaching is] a profession and a calling, really. But I think, walking into the building…there’s a shift in consciousness, there is a breaking of state with the outside world. We are in this place of infinite possibility and potential, and infinite possibility for happiness. And so that’s inspirational.


John Hunter’s World Peace Game website.

April 29th, 2013

I am a big fan of Marc Gafni’s teaching. He presents a leading edge approach to human enlightening. He currently has a new 10-session tele-course underway, and after participating in the first session past Wednesday, I know it will be wonderful. The course meets online continuing Wednesdays at 6:00pm PST. Registration is still open, and you can download any sessions you that you miss. Here’s Marc:


Hi Friend,

I could not be more excited to invite you to join us for the Awakening Your Unique Self course. I want to take this opportunity to share with you —at least in part— why this course can change your life.

I want to link together two ideas: outrageous love and awakening to your unique self. We will go deeper into this in the course, but I want share this preview.

To awaken to your Unique Self is to be Lived by Love. It is the way to access all of the joy, depth, delight and profoundly powerful meaning and purpose that comes only from glimpsing Your Awakened Unique Self.

It is also the way to make yourself a beneficial presence on this planet right now which will change the very core of way you experience reality.

It is the way to make your life a gift to “all that is” and it is precisely what will naturally cause “all that is” to shower you with gifts of all kinds in return.

Let me try and go even deeper into this with you for a few minutes.

We live in a world of outrageous pain. Boston, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Congo, Kenya, Jerusalem, Manhattan, Bangladesh. Outrageous pain is everywhere.

The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.

There is an outrageous act of love that the worlds needs from You. No one else but You is capable of addressing that unique corner of Un-Love and healing it into Love.

The world is going to break your heart. The world is outrageously painful. There is outrageous betrayal. Outrageous heartbreak. Loneliness beyond imagination. 20 million children dying a year of hunger or hunger related diseases when there is enough food to feed every child four times over. There are seventeen million slaves in the world today. The world is outrageous.

The only way to respond to the outrageous pain is to commit acts of outrageous, audacious joy and love. Every time your hearts breaks it also opens more deeply. More pain can enter your heart and more outrageous love action can come from within your heart.

When your heart opens you are filled with the powerful energy of outrageous love that makes you more whole. When you let your heart break you do not become broken. You become more whole. There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.

To be outrageous doesn’t mean to break inappropriate boundaries. The outrageous lover keeps every sacred boundary that should be kept and breaks every boundary of smallness and contraction that desperately yearns to be broken.

To be an outrageous lover does not mean to be insane. The only insanity is the belief that you are separate from the whole – small and impotent. Outrageous love is the only possible path of sanity.

It is insane for children to die hungry when there is food for them to eat. It is insane for human beings to murder each other in order to cover up the fear of death. Awakening to outrageous love, to the knowing that you are part of the whole, that you are a unique expression of greatness, that you are powerful beyond measure, is the only sanity.

The path of outrageous love is the path of Your Unique Self.

To live Your Unique Self is to walk the path of the Outrageous Lover.

That is what it means to be a Unique Self.

You are a Unique Self! This is the simple and powerful truth of your life.

What does that mean?

To be a Unique Self is to realize that you are a unique expression of the LOVE INTELLIGENCE and LOVE BEAUTY that initiated and animates all that is.

You are Love’s Verb.

Your Unique Self is Love’s Verb.

You are an Outrageous Love Letter from infinity to our world with a Unique Love Language that can only be spoken by You.

Reality needs You to Commit Outrageous Acts of Love that no one but You is capable of doing.

God needs Your service. Your Deed is God’s Need. Reality’s Need.

God waits for You to partner with him/her in the way of outrageous love.

Reality itself is God’s outrageous love letter.

The unmanifest becomes manifest in order to love.

Your life is love in action.

To awaken into your Unique Self is to be LIVED BY LOVE.

It is for this reason that I know that there is nothing more important to do in this lifetime than to Awaken to Your Unique Self.

That is the purpose of our time together. I’m so excited. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

In Outrageous Love,

Dr. Marc Gafni


Registration is still open, and you can download any sessions you that you miss.

April 15th, 2013

Happy Leonardo Day, April 15, 2013. GIFTing has been activated at The Gifting Earth. It is now fully operational. Members can now begin helping each other with gifting and sharing.


The Gifting Earth — Why-How-What


 

WHY

We humans are really one people—the human people. We share one earth—we breathe one air—we drink one water.

We humans need each other—sometimes I will need your help, and sometimes you will need mine.

The truth of our human oneness means that we are an interdependent species—we are at our best when we work together and trust each other.

HOW

The Gifting Earth is based on only one rule: Be Love.

If you choose to Be Love then you can only Do Good, and if you only Do Good, you will discover that your community will so value you that it will insure that you Have Everything you need and want.

WHAT

The Gifting Earth is a free community website that enables its users to easily help and be helped through the gifting and sharing of: Goods, Services, Knowledge, and Compassion.

Goods are THINGS: Any material object that has value. Services are ACTIONS: Projects, Labor (skilled and unskilled), Jobs and Tasks. Knowledge is KNOWING: Expertise, Consultations, Counseling, and Advise. And, Compassion is KINDNESS: Empathy, Sympathy, Love, and Support.

So it’s easy really, just Be Love, Do Good, and Have Everything.

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Getting Started

Imagine a world where Co-Operation has replaced Market — a world where GIFTors and GIFTees have replaced sellers and buyers.

When you become a member of The Gifting Earth (TGE), you will always have a dual role. You will be both a GIFTor and a GIFTee. In your role as a GIFTor, you will register your offer of GIFTS to others within the community. In your role as a GIFTee, you will also register your NEEDS for what you would like to receive as gifts from other members within the community. Gifts can be Goods, Services, Knowledge, or Compassion.

The GIFTor is always the ACTive partner in a gifting encounter. GIVING is a verb. The role of GIFTee is always the passive partner in a gifting encounter. Receiving is passive. A GIFT is a noun.

As a GIFTee, your list of NEEDS is available to all GIFTors. Those GIFTors who have GIFTs that match your NEEDS can make you an OFFER of Help.

Also as a GIFTee, the list of all GIFTS being offered is available to you. You can request a particular GIFT that you think might meet your needs. The GIFTor offering that GIFT will be notified that you are interested in receiving their GIFT. They will then have the opportunity to look at your membership history, profile, and comments made about your previous gifting exchanges. They are free to offer or decline to offer their GIFT to you.

As a GIFTor, you decide when, where, and to whom you will offer your GIFT. All GIFTing is voluntary. As a GIFTee, you will be notified when an offer of a GIFT has been made to you, then you will have the opportunity to take a more careful look at a description of the offered GIFT, and the history, profile, comments about the GIFTor offering the GIFT. You may accept or decline the offered GIFT. All receiving of GIFTs is voluntary. Once a GIFTor and GIFTee agree to a gifting encounter, they are provided with each others contact information so they can connect and make the exchange in the real world.

The only information that is public in the system is your name, home town and state. You have complete control over who sees your email address, your street address, and your telephone number. This private information will be given by you to those whose help you decide to accept. And, you will need similar information from those who desire your help. We are moving from Market to Co-Operation. We understand that we are INTERdependent. Sometimes I will need your help, and sometimes you will need my help. Our relationships with each other will be personal and caring. Personal and caring relationships are not anonymous.

Once the gifting is concluded, both GIFTor and GIFTee rate the gifting experience from one to five stars, and may add a paragraph of text in a comment field. This becomes a part of a both members’ exchange histories.

While GIFTing can be global, regional, or local, many GIFTs are only available locally. Since this is the initial launch of TGE, you may be the first in your community to join. And, so to increase the opportunity for helping others, and for getting help from others, you will want to invite others in your local community to join us here at TGE.

To learn more go here.

March 4th, 2013

The Gifting Earth is now open for charter membership.


How does it work?

Timothy Wilken, MD

The Gifting Earth is a free online system that enables its members to help each other through the gifting and sharing of: Goods, Services, Knowledge, and Compassion.

HomeI am a synergic scientist. The word synergy derives from two Greek roots: erg meaning “to work,” and syn meaning “together;” hence, the term synergy simply means “working together.” Synergic science is the study of working together. It is a relatively new science, but it has produced a powerful new understanding of human behavior and of human organization. Synergic science reveals a relatively simple solution to our present human difficulties. That solution requires that we work together and act responsibly.

One of the discoveries of synergic science is that the best organizations – the most efficient, the most productive and those wherein the members are the most happy – are those organizations where the participants have win-win relationships with each other.

From synergic science, a tensegrity is the pattern that results when push and pull have a win-win relationship with each other. The pull is continuous and the push is discontinuous. The continuous pull is balanced by the discontinuous push producing an integrity of tension and compression. This creates a powerful self-stabilizing system.

We humans have needs that are continuously pulling on us to be met. To meet these needs we or an other, working on our behalf, must take actions to meet these needs. While our needs continuously pull on us, actions are the discontinuous pushes to meet those needs.

Humans as the INTERdependent class of life can have positive relationships with each other. We can form a gifting tensegrity, where we are continuously being helped, and where we are discontinuously helping others. Needs are continuously pulling on us. Gifts are the actions of others which are offered as the discontinuous pushes to meet our needs.

For convenience, We can combine the two terms ‘gifting’ and ‘tensegrity’ into a shorter term GIFTegrity. The GIFTegrity is a newly invented mechanism for the the gifting and sharing of human help.

GIFTegrity is the engine that powers The Gifting Earth. Let us begin by describing how a GIFTegrity is structured and how it works. Every member of a GIFTegrity community would participate in two roles – as a GIFTor and as a GIFTee. Every member participates by both gifting help to others and by receiving help from others. The continuous pull of the GIFTees’ needs are balanced by the discontinuous push from the GIFTors’ offers of help. Again we see as an INTERdependent life form, there will be times when we will help others and times when others will help us.

 

http://www.synearth.net/imgs/GiveHelpB.gif

You help.
Others help.

You help others.
Others help you.

You help others help you.
Others help you help others.

You help others help you help others.
Others help you help others help you.

 

A GIFTegrity works on trust, generosity and gratitude. I give help to those in need and trust that when I am in need there will be those who will give me help.

Can I trust you? When we use the word trust, it usually means can I rely on you not to hurt me.

Synergic Trust is a larger term. It includes ordinary trust, so I can rely on you not to hurt me, but it also means that I can rely on you to help me.

Synergic Trust was discovered long ago, and was once known as: The Spiritual Principle Of Giving And Receiving“When we give to one another, freely and without conditions, sharing our blessings with others and bearing each other’s burdens, the giving multiplies and we receive far more than what was given. Even when there is no immediate prospect of return, Heaven keeps accounts of giving, and in the end blessing will return to the giver, multiplied manyfold. We must give first; to expect to receive without having given is to violate the universal law. On the other hand, giving in order to receive — with strings attached, with the intention of currying favor, or in order to make a name for oneself — is condemned.”

And while, The Spiritual Principle of Giving and Receiving relies on “Heaven to keep account of giving,” a GIFTegrity relies on a public database to keep account of giving and receiving. This database of the history of gifting is a public space where the gifting events are made visible to all members who are participants in good standing.

Imagine a world where Co-Operation has replaced Market — a world where GIFTors and GIFTees have replaced sellers and buyers. We are all familiar with Market and our dual role in Market as Sellers and Buyers.

Market requires money. To get money, most of us sell the hours of our lives to employers. Our employers then make some product with our help, which they then sell to buyers for money. So in the world of Market, the participants are both sellers and buyers. You have to sell something first to get money, if you don’t have money, you can’t buy anything.

When you become a member of The Gifting Earth (TGE), you enter into the world of co-Operation, here you also have a dual role. You will be both a GIFTor and a GIFTee. You will post the Gifts you would like give or share with other members of the community in your role as a GIFTor. You will also post the Needs you would like to receive or borrow from other members of the community in your role as a GIFTee.

What you might gift or share

Almost any good or service can be gifted or shared on TGE. Our database is organized into four general classes of Gifts and Needs.

1) Goods – THINGS: Any material object that has value. This would include: tools, appliances, electronics, computers, telephones, equipment of any kind, lawnmowers, house furniture, household goods, furnishings, materials, supplies, foods and even large things like automobiles, or houses. Any material object that is of value can provide some good to the user, hence the term goods.

You can give Goods away fully or only gift the use of them for a specified time. Location is very important for the gift of using a tool or appliance, perhaps less important if the item is given away fully.

Things that are gifted can be new or used. Working or not working. The important thing is to describe the offered gift accurately. A television repairman might like the gift of an old TV, that he will repair and use or gift to someone else. So your description of an offered gift needs to be very accurate. No one will be criticized for gifting junk as long as they describe it accurately as junk. Those seeking junk will be happy. Remember one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

2) Services – ACTIONS: Projects, Labor (skilled and unskilled), Jobs and Tasks. This could be as simple as baby sitting, or giving someone a ride to as complex as building a room on someone’s house or writing a custom software program, etc., etc., etc.. It could be a million and one different forms of helping provided by humans in action. Location is very important. Many services would only available locally.

3) Knowledge – KNOWING: Expertise, Consultations, Counseling, and Advise. Those humans with expertise in almost any field can make that expertise available to others as a gift. Physicians, Attorneys, Accountants, Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication. Knowing can also be available in the form or books, art, courses, online files, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication.

4) Compassion – KINDNESS: Empathy, Sympathy, Love, and Support. Compassion is a very personal form of gift. It is the most human of gifts. Compassion can come in many forms. It may just be lending an ear, holding space with another, or holding someone’s hand. Those humans with experience of the difficult challenges encountered in life can share the lessons they have learned from those challenges with others as a gift. Those that have lost the most, have often learned the greatest lessons. Those that have faced Death in the form of Cancer, Major Injury or Illness, and those that have lost loved ones — children, spouses, or parents, may be best prepared to help their fellow humans who face similar challenges. Because the personal touch is so powerful with Compassion, this gift is often best given locally, but location may be less important with the growing power of internet communication — such as Skype and FaceTime.

Gifting – Local, Regional & Global

Also considerations of location are important in a GIFTegrity. Gifts and Needs may be Local, Regional or Global.

Goods and especially the use of tools will mostly be local. However, it may make sense to gift a major appliance or automobile regionally. And rarely, smaller lighter items might be shipped globally especially if they are unusual one of a kind.

Services will usually need to be local, occasionally regional, and rarely global.

Knowledge is usually available as a global, regional or local gift.

Compassion is often best gifted locally, but with the internet and modern communication devices, I can help people all over the world.

Conditional Gifting

You can gift anything with conditions. A gift is an offer of help. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept the offer. GIFTing is fully voluntary. The GIFTor makes offers of help when and to whom he chooses. The GIFTee accepts offers of help when and from whom they choose. Conditions of gifting is both intelligent and synergic. A common example for non-local Goods might be to Gift an item with the provision that the Giftee pay the cost of shipping. Many of us have tools that we only use occasionally. If I gift the use of a tool for a weekend, I may do so with the condition that it be returned in clean and in good condition.

However some conditions are prohibited. I can’t offer a gift with the condition that you pay me. That is Market, not co-Operation. I can’t request a gift for purposes of resale. Again, that is Market, not co-Operation.

Read more on the Terms and Conditions page.

Do No Harm

Co-Operation is about working together to help ourselves and each other. Members of TGE are committed to a world where I win, you win, others win and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.

I am prohibited from offering a gift that is harmful to others, illegal to possess, or known to be dangerous.

Read more on the Terms and Conditions page.

History of Gifting Events

As members use a GIFTegrity, their history of giving, sharing, receiving and borrowing is documented and recorded in the community space. Gifting, sharing, receiving and borrowing is transparent. It can be seen by all members of the gifting community. Your member profle shows all the gifts you have given, all the gifts you have shared, all the gifts you have received, and and all the gifts you have borrowed as well as any comments made by you and your partner’s in the gifting events. Since your Gifting event rating and comment profile is based not on the number of gifts offered, but rather on the number of gift offers accepted, it is of great importance to have a good relationship between GIFTor and GIFTee. Remember, every gifting event generates a GIFTor’s rating and comments on the GIFTee, and a GIFTee’s rating and comments on the GIFTor.

To be successful in The Gifting Earth community you need to give and interact in a positive way with other members. This means you want to accurately describe your offered gifts and make sure those accepting your gifts get what they expect from your descriptions. You also want to be courteous and friendly in your encounters. If you have an encounter that earns you a low comment from an gifting partner, you will want to repair that encounter as quickly as possible so that that gifting partner will modify or withdraw their low comment. For instance, if I gift a used computer to someone and it doesn’t work as described, I need to be willing to take it back at my expense if the GIFTee paid for shipping. Or pay for disposal and give up my credit for the gift. Remember, every gifting event effects the ratio of giving-receiving for both the GIFTor and GIFTee.

Ranking the Gifting Event

This the score awarded at the end of a gifting event by your gifting partner.

GIFTors are ranked on CommunicationGenerosity and Co-Operation.

COMMUNICATION: How accurate, complete and clear was the description of the offered GIFT? How timely, complete and clear were messages related to the offered Gift?

GENEROSITY: How did the GIFTor relate to the GIFTee?

CO-OPERATION: How well did the GIFTor embrace the spirit of working together? What is your overall rating for the gifting event?

5 Stars — Amazing Event
4 Stars — Great Event
3 Stars — Good Event
2 Stars — OK Event
1 Star — Neutral or Negative Event

GIFTees are ranked on Communication, Gratitude, and Co-Operation.

COMMUNICATION: How timely, complete and clear were messages related to the requested NEED?

GRATITUDE: How did the GIFTee relate to the GIFTor?

CO-OPERATION: How well did the GIFTee embrace the spirit of working together? What is your overall rating for the gifting event?

5 Stars — Amazing Event
4 Stars — Great Event
3 Stars — Good Event
2 Stars — OK Event
1 Star — Neutral or Negative Event

Getting Started

Now once a new member has completed their registration as a GIFTor-GIFTee, they will first need to offer a gift. Once you have posted an initial gift offer, then you are unrestricted in your ability to post both Gifts and Needs into the data base, the TGE software program is designed to help members sort and match Gifts of help with Needs for help.

Within a GIFTegrity, the role of GIFTor is active. The role of GIFTee is passive. The Browse page contains all active Gifts and Needs currently available. Here you can search and sort to find Gifts that might help you or Needs that you might be able to meet for others. The list of Gifts and Needs can be sorted alphabetcially, by rating scores and by distance from the users location.

Freedom of Choice in the Synergic Help Exchange

GIFTors are free to offer their gifts to any member who requests their gift. GIFTors may also offer a gift in response to a posted Need. The GIFTors are in control of their giving. Once a GIFTor selects a GIFTee to receive their offer of help, then the GIFTee is notified that an offer of help has been made to them. The GIFTee can then access the profile and gifting history of the offering GIFTor. Using this information, the GIFTee can decide whether to accept the offer of help or not.

Freedom of choice is an absolute tenant of GIFTegrity. The GIFTor decides when and to whom to offer a gift of help. The GIFTee decides when and from whom to accept a gift offer of help.

GIFTors and GIFTees get to know to each other initially by reading each other’s member profiles and Gifting event histories. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept an offered gift. At this point the GIFTee may contact the GIFTor with questions or clarifications about the offer. If the GIFTee accepts the offer, than that action is recorded as a finalized gifting and both profiles are updated. Both GIFTor and GIFTee can make comments about the interaction then or at a later time if more appropriate. If the GIFTee declines the offer of help, the GIFTor is notified so they can offer their help to some other member of the GIFTegrity.

Gifting Event Overview for GIFTS

The chart below describes the gifting event process for Gifts. If you are giving away the gift, you are the GIFTor. If you are receiving someone else’s gift, you are the GIFTee.

Inline image 1

1. GIFTor logs into The Gifting Earth and posts a Gift offer
2. GIFTee browses or searches the website, finds the gift and clicks “Request Gift”. (Note that more than one member may request the same gift.)
3. GIFTor selects one GIFTee (or more if there are more items available) to whom to Offer the gift.
4. GIFTee receives a notification that they have been offered the gift, and elects to accept it.
5. GIFTor receives notification that GIFTee has accepted the gift, and activates the gifting event.
6. At this point both parties receive contact info, and, if and as necessary, meet in the real world to transfer the gift to GIFTee
7. After the gifting event has occurred, both parties return to The Gifting Earth to complete and rate the gifting event
8. Once both parties have completed and rated the other’s participation, the gifting event is complete.

Gifting Event Overview for NEEDS

The chart below describes the gifting event process for Needs. If you are receiving the gift, you are the GIFTee. If you are meeting someone’s need, you are the GIFTor.

Inline image 2

1. GIFTee logs into The Gifting Earth posting area and adds their need to the system.
2. GIFTor browses or searches the website, finds the need and clicks “Offer Gift”. (Note that more than one member may offer a gift to meet the same need.)
3. GIFTee selects one GIFTor from whom to accept the gift.
4. GIFTor receives a notification that their offer to provide a gift has been accepted, and activates the gifting event
5. At this point both parties receive contact info, and, as and if necessary, meet in the real world to complete the gifting event.
6. After the gifting event has occurred, both parties return to The Gifting Earth and complete and rate the gifting event.
7. Once both parties have completed and rated each other, the gifting event is complete.

Transparency in the GIFTegrity

To help the GIFTors decide to whom to gift to and the GIFTees decide from whom to receive a gift, The Gifting Earth documents and preserves a history of all gifting events. As both GIFTor and GIFTee, I can make my decision to select a gifting partner with benefit of the following knowledge:

1) My potential Gifting partner’s real name, hometown and home state and zip code.

2) How long they have been a member of The Gifting Earth.

3) The number of Gifts they have Given. The number of Needs they have had met.

4) Their cumulative rating for all gifting events (1 to 5 stars) awarded by their previous gifting partners.

5) Their individual ratings for each gifting event (1 to 5 stars) and the written comments by previous gifting partners related to those particular Gifting events.

6) The user profile information that potential Gifting partners have chosen to share with the gifting community.

This makes the processes within a GIFTegrity transparent and helps members make choices that result in win-win relationships.

Read the Privacy Policy

Ratio for Gifting and Receiving

Within The Gifting Earth, the total number of Gifts offered by all members should equal the total number of Needs requested by all members. If there are more Gifts offered then Needs being requested, then the excess Gifts are being wasted. If there are more Needs being requested than Gifts being offered, then some Needs are going unmet.

Ideally, within The Gifting Earth, every member will find themselves both helping others and being helped by others. Over the life of one’s membership, each member could expect to be helped by others as often as they helped others. The number of their needs being met by others would roughly equal the number of gifts that they give to others. So as a guideline, we recommend that you try to post equal numbers of gifts and needs. This is made easier by our recognition of the four classes of gifts and needs: Goods, Services, Knowledge and Compassion.

However within any real community, not all of us are equally blessed. Some of us have more and some of us have less. Jesus of Nazareth said, “That to those who much is given, much will be expected.” Those that are giving more will gain the respect and gratitude of their community. Those that are given more will be helped by the caring and generosity of their community. That which makes any part of community better makes the whole community better. When we realize that we are INTERdependent, we need each other. If I need you, whatever I do that makes you stronger is of benefit to me.

Also there will be times when I have more to give to others than I need to get from others. And, there will be times when I need to get more from others than I have to give to others. These variations within the individual patterns of giving and receiving are also normal. We each need to strive to do the best that we can.

To improve your Gifts to Needs ratio, you will need to gift more. Also, you will want to accept others gifts carefully, and only when you truly value and need them. In co-Operation, we are working together to make all of our lives better. The accumulation of things, you really don’t need or want, is best left in the world of Market.

Bringing Dead Wealth to Life

One major advantage of the GIFTegrity is that it resurrects Dead Wealth. Dead Wealth is that wealth within the human community that is not being used to help self or others. Dead Wealth is found in all four forms – Compassion, Knowing, Action and Goods.

Goods – We all have lots of perfectly good things we have in boxes in our garages, attics, and closets. Used tools, appliances, furniture, clothing, furnishings– things we never use but are too good to throw away. Now they can be easily liberated by simply describing them accurately and gifting them away. Or how about just gifting away the use of some those great tools you only use one day a week or one day a month.

Service – We all have some hours in our lives that could be available to help others. The Gift Tensegrity gives me an outlet for all of those other skills and abilities that I am not currently trading to some employer for money. Some of us can do home and automobile repair, handyman work, cleaning, cooking, sewing, child and elder care, teaching, etc., etc., etc.. Or, it might be that if we knew what help others needed, we could combine their errands with our own when we are out running around anyway. The Gift Tensegrity allows you to quickly find out how you can turn those wasted hours into help for others.

Knowledge – Almost all of us have significant expertise in some areas. Some knowledge of how to solve problems that we have encountered in our lives. However, in our present world we trade the hours of our lives to others for just enough money to earn our livings. Our employers don’t want our expertise and knowledge unless it applies to the limited task they hired us to perform. Yet in the larger context of community our unwanted expertise and knowledge could help others. The GIFTegrity gives us an outlet for sharing that expertise and knowledge. Again, this might be in the form of knowing and action joined together such as consultations, couseling, analysis and real time problem solving, or it may be available in the form of knowing and levers such as reports, books, video or audio tapes, artwork, photos, computer files, etc., etc., etc..

Compassion – And finally, all of us have benefited at some time in our lives from the gift of compassion. We know that it is often the best gift to receive and give. The GIFTegrity expands our ability to gift and receive this most special gift.

Need Help – Look First to the GIFTegrity

The GIFTegrity is a distributor of synergic help. And as INTERdependent form or life, we all need help. In a GIFTegrity, all participants win. Synergic relationships are those that make me more productive, more effective, and more happy. When I need help, this is where I will look first. In the beginning the gifting tensegrities will not instantly replace the fair market. It will begin as simple an alternative to the fair market. I will begin to meet some of my needs at the GIFTegrities. As I begin gifting and finding that some of my needs are met this way. I will have less need to sell the hours of my life for money to use in the fair market. Once I am gifting 10 hours a week.I will then be able to reduce my working week from 40 to 30 hours. This is how the transition will occur.

Out of Work – Look to the the GIFTegrity

The gifting tensegrities can be enormously important to those individuals finding themselves out of work. When there is no market for the hours of your life. There is still no shortage of people who need your help. The gifting tensegrities acts as an immediate outlet for those with help to Gift, but no market for their help to Sell. In fact the GIFTensegrity becomes a new type of insurance for all humans who are at risk for losing their jobs. In this society, that is all of us.

GIFTegrity – Not Just for Individuals

Synergic TeamNets are groups of individual humans that form themselves into Synergic Teams for the purpose of performing a larger and more complex task than they can perform as individuals. These individuals co-Operate through a network based on synergic relationships and synergic compensation mechanisms to accomplish those larger and more complex tasks. Barry Carter has written extensively about this concept in his book Infinite Wealth. And, I have developed a mechanism for organizing Synergic Production Teams called the Ortegrity which is available elsewhere. TeamNets can register with a gifting tensegrity and list the Needs of their TeamNet Project. They may be able to attract the help they need though the free synergic GIFTegrity, or they can attract help, by inviting others to join their team for Synergic Revenue Shares if the project produces revenue.

Economist Wayne F. Perg, Ph. D writes:

“My … understanding of the GIFTegrity is one of a radical move away from trade-oriented or materialistic sort of exchange.

“In the GIFTegrity there is no accounting, there are no prices, there is no barter (no tit for tat), and there is no medium of exchange! For me, it is the road to a post-monetary, post-barter economy.

“Barter and monetary economies both tie together giving and receiving. One cannot be done in the absence of the other. It is this “tying together” that is the ultimate source of “dead resources” and unemployment.

“The GIFTegrity frees giving from receiving and receiving from giving and will, as it is implemented, bring all resources to life and eliminate unemployment.

“The GIFTegrity does this by creating transparency, i.e., by creating good information on the SEPARATE giving and receiving actions of all members of the gifting tensegrity. Because there is no trading, only gifts given with no requirment of payment, there are no market prices and no accounting of trades. What there is is an open exchange of information on needs and resources available to fill those needs and ongoing individual negotiations around actions that will meet those needs.

“I see the GIFTegrity bringing the exchange relationships of a living organism to human society. As Elizabet Sahtouris has pointed out, the heart does not hold an auction for the supply of oxygenated blood and it does not withhold blood from those organs who are currently unable to pay.

“I see the GIFTegrity as a powerful new vehicle for first supplementing and then eventually replacing our present exchange economy that relies on money and barter to facilitate exchange.

“I see the GIFTegrity as a powerful step forward from money systems and barter because it separates the acts of giving and receiving whereas both money systems and barter tie giving and receiving together into formal exchange transactions. It is this tying together of giving and receiving that creates “landlocked” resources and unemployment.

“I do not see the GIFTegrity replacing informal, undocumented and recorded giving and receiving within families, groups and communities within which all participants are known to each other and within which trust is well established. In fact, I see the operation of the Gift Tensegrity increasing the number and size of the groups within which informal, undocumented giving and receiving is the norm.

“It is my understanding that, in the GIFTegrity, I do not make any commitment to giving in advance. As a giver, I have access to information on the needs of those who are seeking what I have to give, but potential receivers of my gifts have no access to me as a giver until I offer my gift to that person, organization, or community to which I decide that I would like to give.

“Also, given my big picture vision for the GIFTegrity, I see givers and receivers including organizations (including for-profit businesses) and communities as well as individuals.”

Read the Scientific Basis for the GIFTegrity

The Gifting Earth is now open for charter membership.

December 17th, 2012

This essay was published in Spring 2010 issue of  Inquiring Mind. The focus of that Spring 2010 issue was addiction, but the article speaks to a much deeper human need. 

It was originally titled: The Suffering of Separation.


The Need for Community

Janet Surrey

As a psychotherapist I am continually moved by the anguish of isolation so many experience. Like fish with water, we hardly see the pervasiveness of this condition for our being in the world. Whatever we try to do to relieve this suffering—through denial of our deepest needs for connection, to materialistic pursuits, or to compulsive social or work activities—we are haunted by the “dis-ease” of separation and cannot rest and take refuge in our families or communities. The breakdown in community in the U.S. has been documented by many scholars, and the resultant loneliness and alienation are revealed in the high rates of depression, addiction, anxiety and violence. People in our society feel fundamentally separate, cut off from each other and disconnected from the natural world. We can see our isolation through the lens of the First Noble Truth, which points to the suffering of the separate self. The greater the fundamental attachment to self, the more we suffer.

Particularly in the United States, our cultural ideals support individualism, competition, denial of vulnerability and independence. Relationships are valued as supports or buttresses to the self. But like hungry ghosts we still yearn for the stability and continuity of deep community. When offered the opportunity, however, we often cannot drink fully; our thirst becomes painful and leads us to develop strategies to deny or to avoid feeling our yearnings. The problem is both external—lack of available communities—and internal—the ways we hold ourselves back from surrendering to relationships. Our default position of alienation or non-belonging is often a consequence of painful experiences that lead us to mistrust and run when the going gets rough. We run for protection toward isolation or search for new and improved relationships or communities. Yet we also seek spiritual practices and communities to restore or realign ourselves to our most fundamental condition of interconnectedness or “interbeing.”

In the early years of my own Theravadan practice, the emphasis on individual, solitary practice often seemed to me to be supporting the Western value of self-sufficiency as well as celebrating the heroic, solitary journey. We practiced together in groups for weeks but never even learned each other’s names. We sensed the underlying power of community in practice but didn’t realize this in real relationship. The practice of taking refuge in sangha seemed to be the stepchild or foundational support to practice, rather than practice itself. The solitary Buddha was the icon, even though in truth the Buddha spent very few days alone, living most of his eighty years in community.

I was later drawn to practice with Thich Nhat Hahn, who seems to intuitively understand the overwhelming suffering of isolation in the West. He emphasizes building local and worldwide communities and teaches the practice of “learning to see with Sangha eyes.” To build “good enough” communities that are not there solely to serve or support us, we need to do the work of inventing or embracing practices that support and nurture sangha, that help us to become “good enough” members of a community. Perhaps we need to add a teaching on “right relationship” to the Eightfold Path.

Two years ago at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, I heard teacher Eugene Cash offer a reordering of the Three Jewels from the usual “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha” to the new “Sangha, Dharma, Buddha.” Even though the Buddha was clear that these refuges are interdependent and co-arising, in our own rank-ordering culture, first is best, most valuable, on top. It is in this reordering that I believe the Twelve Step programs offer a profound vision and practical experience of taking refuge in the sangha.

I have a twenty-five-year-long intimate connection with living at the intersection of the Eightfold Path and the Twelve Step program. I have also worked as a professional in the addiction/recovery community and have coauthored the play “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” the story of the relationship between the cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The ground-breaking discovery of these two men was that “true meeting”—one drunk coming clean to another through telling their authentic life stories to each other—could accomplish something neither drunk could do alone. It could lift them from the destructive and fatal cycle of alcoholism into sobriety and a new dimension of living.

Sobriety describes a state of being, a willingness to face reality—“life on life’s terms”—with equanimity and open-mindedness, becoming “as willing to listen as only the dying can be.” Liberation from the suffering of alcoholism through the Twelve Steps becomes possible through surrendering the separate self, that is, in taking refuge in the fellowship of other sufferers, the healing sangha. In the beginning is the “We.” Step 1 says, “We admitted that by ourselves we were powerless over alcohol.” Relinquishing the ego is essential for achieving and maintaining sobriety. The principles and practices of this surrender, including prayer and meditation, are the most powerful vehicles for taking refuge in sangha that I have experienced.

Addiction is often called a disease of isolation. You are as “sick as you are secret.” Moving out of shame and self-delusion into the light of awareness and nonseparation is essential not only for survival but for spiritual health. Sobriety depends on the learned capacity to ask for help, to admit vulnerability, and to “call before you take the first drink.” There is great and transformative power in learning to reach out to another human being when the momentum of the past and the voracious craving of addiction are calling the addict to take refuge in the substance or addictive behavior. This step, of taking refuge in fellowship and relationship, is a moment of liberation. One of the promises of the Twelve Step program is that “self-seeking will slip away.” The suggestion to reach out beyond self, to “put your ego in your back pocket,” and in the face of craving to do service and share the gift of sobriety with others, leads to the experience of release from suffering.

The fellowship of the Twelve Steps is a worldwide network of meetings and relationships. It is alive, accessible and available 24/7 through face-to-face meetings; telephones or Blackberries or Internet; and through literature, prayer and meditation. In a concrete way the fellowship can be tapped into anytime or anywhere. Isolation thus becomes a chosen state, not a pre-existing condition, not something temporarily ameliorated though a weekly sangha meeting or potluck. Our Buddhist communities could benefit from such a realized, concrete expression of community that can never be lost unless one actively or purposefully “closes the door.”

These Twelve Step relational practices represent the journey from solipsistic, delusional “relief” through addictive behavior to the light and release from suffering in the realization of nonseparation, or anatta. This relational realization is practical, teachable, simple and profound, and ultimately life-changing.

The dialectic between the Buddha’s teaching of “see for yourself” and the practice of surrendering self to refuge in sangha points ultimately to the Middle Way for us humans. On the Buddhist path this living intersection of alone and together is taught beautifully by Gregory Kramer in his “Insight Dialogue” retreats, where the seamless movement between internal practice and relational practice is investigated and realized. Any living sangha can become a doorway to the great web, which Joanna Macy describes as “the Maha Sangha of All Beings,” seen and unseen, past, present and future.

This glimpse of true interbeing can occur when the personal and collective work of confronting obstacles and practicing nonseparation is a central practice of the meditation community. This includes finding creative ways to directly address the suffering and structural divisions of race, gender, class, sexualities, etc. Many Buddhist centers are beginning to take on these issues more directly and to reflect a new level of awareness of this necessary aspect of building sangha. The new multicultural Dharma, the pioneering East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, and the people of color retreats are leading the way in this important work.

The current work of many vipassana teachers in particular is a fruit of Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s authentic commitment to community building and to reaching out to more marginalized or underserved communities. Participating in the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) program, about to begin its fourth cohort of participants, has offered the most profound vision and experience of true sangha that I have known. Resting in Buddhadharma and supported by the commitment of the leaders to practice “dissolving self and other,” my own group of ninety participants found the way to the “We.” Active engagement with diversity, practicing non-violent communication, and relational practice of the Brahmaviharas—all held in the silence and a deep commitment to living and sharing the Dharma—opened the sangha doorway.

When we first began to meet and practice together over two and a half years ago, none of us was exactly sure what “community Dharma leader” actually meant. For some it was a recognition or evolution of their leadership roles in their communities of practice; to others it was a chance to learn and commit to reaching out to new populations. For me it came to represent a new priority and practice of community Dharma. I now feel a passionate commitment to realizing and teaching this community Dharma and drawing on the practices of sangha that the Twelve Step community offers. I see this creative, unfolding refuge practice as aligned with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s call for building sangha as “communities of resistance” to the powerful forces of materialism, alienation and violence in Western culture. I feel its importance for nurturing true healing and liberation in Western psychotherapy. And I hear the voice of Thich Nhat Hanh in his evocative teaching that “the next Buddha, the Buddha of the West, will come as the sangha.”

Copyright © 2010 Inquiring Mind


Janet Surrey, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the Harvard Medical School, she is a founding scholar and board member at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. Dr. Surrey is a co-author of Women’s Growth in Connection and the Psychology of Peacemaking. She is co-editor of Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers. Along with her husband, Stephen Bergman and Samuel Shem, she has co-authored the book “We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Men and Women”. Dr. Surrey is the author of numerous articles and papers. She has written and spoken widely on many topics, including gender issues, mother-daughter relationships, addictions, couples therapy, empathy, adoption, and peacemaking.

October 29th, 2012

Your Unique Self and The Only Thing That Matters

Timothy Wilken, MD

I am currently reading two new books
that may be among the most important books ever written to address our changing times. Even though I haven’t yet finished either book, I am so excited that I had to tell you a little bit about them.

The first is the latest book from a teacher of mine, Marc Gafni. It is called Your Unique Self. I am about half way through and am finding it to be of great value. Marc believes that enlightenment is a human behavior that is available to any human who takes the time to understand and work the process. This makes it one of the most optimistic books every written. Here is a few paragraphs from Marc‘s new book:

We live in the time of the annunciation of a new myth, the Great Story of Evolution. This Myth of Evolution is both a passion play, a morality tale, and a three-way romantic drama between the human being, kosmos, and God.

In the language of Unique Self mystic Abraham Kook, this myth raises “the public center of gravity to moral heights and ecstatic joy” in a way that was virtually unattainable in previous eras. Kook and de Chardin, inspired by evolutionary philosophers like Sri Aurobindo and Luria, embrace evolution as the highest and most noble expression of the ethical meaning of our lives on Earth.

Kook writes, “The deep understanding of the evolutionary context in forming our vision of the future exalts man to a moral pinnacle of spirit, radically raising the bar of his ethical responsibility.”

Aligning with the evolutionary impulse and taking responsibility for the entire process was, for the last several hundred years, limited to a very small circle of elite mystics. …

We are now entering the time of the Shift. The Shift is from private to public, from the realm of the elite to the democratization of the New Enlightenment.

You are the true Light,
which enlightens every man
that cometh into the
world.
”John 1:9, King James Bible

You means You.

Rabbi Abraham Kook says it well:

Every person needs to know
that he is called to serve
based on the model of perception and feeling
which is absolutely unique to him,
based on the core root of his soul. . . .
A person needs to say:
Bi-shvili nivrah ha-olam
(Through my Unique path the world is created.”)

The core ecstatic ethical meditation of the New Enlightenment is, “The world is created for and by my Unique Path.” This is not a declaration of hubris but a statement of responsibility. To be connected to your Unique Self means to know that your story is sufficiently important, significant, and wonderful, and that the entire world was created for its sake. The dignity of your story demands no less than that you get up every morning and know that your very next action has the power to shape the destiny of our collective future.

Thirteenth-century master Maimonides writes that the superior man experiences the whole world as precisely balanced on a scale, with his next action tipping the scale for good or for bad.

Fourteen billion years of evolution are flowing through you, awaiting your choice. Living this consciousness in joy, your choice becomes filled not only with your goodness but with a radical evolutionary integrity that—in the language of Kook—“enlightens and frees all worlds.”

I have also started reading a new book by Neal Donald Walsch called The Only Thing That Matters. Here are a few paragraphs from Neale‘s new book:

DEAR COMPANION ON THE JOURNEY:

It is wonderful that you have come here. There is something you wish to know and something you wish to do, and Life understands this. That is why you are reading this.

Here is what you wish to know … 98% of the world’s people are spending 98% of their time on things that don’t matter.

You have been part of that 98%. Now you are no longer. From this day forward you choose to spend your time on The Only Thing That Matters. The question is, what is that?

Here is what you wish to do … Find your answer to that question. This requires a deep exploration of the Self. You are in the right place for such an important and remarkable undertaking. Trust that. If you weren’t in the right place to find your answer, you would not be here. Do not think you have come to this book by chance. Do not think that.

Think this: My Soul knows exactly what it is doing. Also, think this: My Soul already knows what really matters. So it is not a question of “finding” that answer, it is a question of remembering. It is not a process of discovery, it is a process of recovery. This data does not have to be researched, it merely has to be retrieved.

Neale shares his answer to the question: What is the Only Thing That Matters?

“What One Desires”

I understand the point the book is making that We Are All One, and that, therefore, what I do for me I do for others, and that what I do for others I do for me.

And so, focusing on “What One Desires” is not “selfish” at all.

I also understand what this text is telling me when it declares that the writer and the reader are, at the level of Essence, in no way separate—and that I am at choice, always, about whether I choose to experience that.

And here is something else that I know: I know that the Illusion of Separation sometimes serves humanity. In fact, if it didn’t serve the species, I have to believe that we would have eliminated the Illusion altogether a long time ago.

Evolution itself would surely have produced that result. But we’ve kept this Illusion of Separation in place because we see that it in many ways serves us.

Now it seems to me that what would be most beneficial to us at this stage of our development as an evolving species would be to step aside from the Separation Illusion where it serves us to do so (if it could more rapidly end global suffering, for instance, or create a larger and more joyful experience of the Self), and to continue to use the Illusion when it facilitates our growth or understanding.

The ONE in his phrase “What One Desires” is not the small self. It is the big Self. It is the ONE in the phrase of a good friend of mine:  “There is only ONE of us here.”

What that ONE desires is a WIN-WIN outcome for ALL involved. Since we are really ONE, then what is the best solution for all of us. When I first read Walsch’s answer to the question “What is the only thing that matters?”

 

 ”What one desires,”

I misunderstood, because I thought he was speaking about “what my small self desires.” Then I realized I was viewing this from the Illusion of Separation. When I shifted to viewing this from the Truth of ONEness, it made total sense, and I experienced a major Aha! moment. Marc explains this idea in a slightly different way:

God is changed, evolved, by our loving God. The stranger is changed and evolved through our love. You are changed and transformed through self-love. Love is not an emotion but a perception of the True Nature of what is, through which emotion is awakened. We become lovers through the profound perception of the True Nature of reality as itappears in first, second, and third person. This perception of love is the realization that you and other are part of the same fabric of All-That-Is. You are part of the whole.

This realization changes the nature of both you and other because you realize your ultimate indivisibility from the other. It is this realization that leads to compassion and then to compassionate action. The evolutionary mysticism of Unique Self teaches that it is this realization, and the compassion and action that it births into reality, that catalyzes the evolution of God.The whole is evolved by the part. This is the very purpose of existence.

Fear is a result of seeing separate otherness. Love is a result of seeing unique oneness. Fear is self-contraction. We always need to remember that fear is the contraction of the self into ego. In ego, the part withdraws from the whole to assert and protect its part nature. Yet we always need to remember that the core intuition of ego is always at its root a glimmering of something necessary and sacred. Healthy self-contraction is the divine self-contraction that allows the world to come into being. God, the whole, steps back in love to allow room for other—the part. Other—the part—is God in disguise from itself. The disguise makes other seem a-part from God rather than a part of God. The disguise, in other words, is the illusion that other is unique and special in a way that separates from God rather than in a way that manifests God. The goal of existence is to pierce the veil of the disguise and reveal the underlying love unity of All-That-Is. Right relationship needs to be established between the part and the whole. Ever-higher integration of parts and wholes is the basic dynamic of evolution.

Healthy human self-contraction motivated by love allows for the world of an other to exist alongside your world. Love allows me to step back to make room for you. You and I recognize each other as unique and special, even as we know that we are together part of the larger divine whole, the seamless coat of the Universe.

Then Marc Gafni further teaches us, that we each bring our own unique perspective to answering Walsch’s question: What is the only thing that matters?

What ONE desires is that our Unique Gift be shared. Everyone’s Unique Gift is necessary to make things better for all of us.

Our unique perspective helps us remember, recover, and retrieve our unique gift that we are here to share with all our brothers and sisters. Elsewhere Marc has explained this:

Recently people have been asking me what I mean by the phrase, “Answering the Call,” which I have been talking about so often during my talks about the democratization of enlightenment teachings in these past years. So when I woke up this morning, before I was fully awake, I jotted down a couple of words on this topic. …

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not a historical accident but an intentional expression of essence, then you realize that enlightenment is a genuine option for every human being. Including You. When you realize that your Unique Self is the God having a You experience, everything in your experience of your life changes.

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not the haphazard result of your cultural social or psychological conditioning, but all of these are necessary conditions for the emergence of the personal face of essence which is You, your essential experience of your life transforms. You move from a desperate need to escape your life to the radical embrace of your life.

When this happens, fate is transformed to destiny. Desperation becomes celebration. Grasping becomes purposeful action and resignation becomes activism. The contracted smallness of your frightened suffering self becomes expanded joyful realization of Your Unique Self. At such times, the irreducible human uniqueness of every human being is the invitation to enlightenment. For the full and authentic expression of your uniqueness living in the world as God’s verb, that is, essence living in you, as you and through you, is the essence of enlightenment.

It is from this place that you “Answer the Call.” It is from this place that you give the world your desperately needed “Unique Gifts,” those endowments that derive from your Unique Self. This is what I mean when I talk about Unique Self enlightenment.

Unique Self enlightenment is a genuine possibility and therefore responsibility for every human being. For there is no separation in essence. Every unique expression of essence is part of the seamless coat of the universe. Seamless but not featureless. Failure to clarify the contours of your Unique Self is not a failure of the contracted ego but a failure to love God. For to love God is to let God see through your eyes. Through the unique perspective of essence which is You.

Realizing Your Unique Self and giving your Unique Gifts is the evolution of love which is the evolution of God upon which the future of God depends. There are two key steps involved.

Firstly, you clarify your realization to know that you are not a separate self but a True Self, inseparable from the All.

Secondly, you realize that your True Self has a Unique Perspective. True Self + Perspective = Unique Self. Your Unique Self is able to address a Unique Need that can be addressed by no one else in the world that ever was, is or will be other then you. No one has the capacity to address this unique need in that the way that you are able to do. This is your Unique Gift.

In sum, your obligation and joy in being alive is to clarify your Unique Perspective, realize your Unique Self and give your Unique Gift. This is how you Answer the Call. Transforming your awareness of self to unique Self-consciousness is the change in your life which changes everything.

Democratization of enlightenment therefore does not mean that everyone is enlightened but rather that a full expression of authentic unique essence is a genuine possibility and therefore a genuine delighted obligation for every living being. In other words, it is the joy and responsibility of Answering the Call.

There is an enormous amount of wisdom in both Walsh’s and Gafni’s books, and I am not yet finished, I am hopeful that both of these books can communicate effectively with my brothers and sisters on the path. I have purchased extra copies of both books for my family and friends.

Namaste,

Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self at Amazon or fine book stores everywhere.

Neale Donald Walsh’s The Only Thing That Matters at Amazon or fine book stores everwhere.