Arts and Minds

The overdeveloped left hemisphere of my brain tells me one thing. My emerging artistic side tells me another. But before we get to the core of the issue, a little personal history is warranted.

During my final decade in the classroom, I pushed an integrative agenda. Attempting to bridge C. P. Snow’s eponymous “Two Cultures” in a manner consistent with Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience, I required every student in each of my science courses to complete a significant piece of art or literature as a major part of the final grade. Naturally, the students hated the exercise and despised me, until the projects were complete and shared with the entire class, at which point the students unanimously agreed it was the most important activity they’d ever conducted in college. University administrators uniformly detested the exercise and just about everything else that happened in my classrooms. And this was even before universities had become widely recognized as money-making scams reflective of this entire culture. From a personal perspective, as I’ve pointed out before, the process of classroom-based integration caused me to lose my reason-driven way and venture deep into the emotional abyss of feeling and understanding.

Therein lies the dilemma I face. Perhaps you face it, too. I know nary a scientist who actually understands and takes meaningful action on any of the following primary issues, much less all of them: human-population overshoot, destruction of non-industrial cultures, extinction of non-human species, peak oil, global climate change. I know plenty of scientists who teach some of these topics, I just don’t know any who understand and act on them.

Conversely, I know several artists who understand the whole enchilada. Most of these people are marginalized by society because they are mere artists, so they have no voice. I’m not suggesting scientists have sufficient power to alter policy, or that any of these topics have politically viable solutions, but scientists can and have used reasonable argumentation to alter the views of a few thoughtful citizens. In general, and with a few notable, high-profile exceptions, artists have been less effective.

But back to me — my favorite subject, after all — and my internal struggle. My heart keeps informing me, with its never-ending screams into my inner ears, that we must terminate this set of living arrangements before it kills us all. My brain, on the other hand, tells me it’s too late: Near-term extinction is locked in because of Fukushima (times 400 and change) and the climate-change result of exponential methane release in the Arctic. Both paths of horror indicate our species has a few decades at most, and they represent merely two of three paths to human extinction within a single human generation. Well, three I know about. There are doubtless others, including the deepening extinction crisis, but I’m trying to maintain my trademark optimism. And I’m certainly not depending on the people who claim to be in charge because I know they lost control years ago, even though they keep juggling chickens and chain saws in an effort to distract the masses.

In light of this overwhelming onslaught of horrifying information, my heart tells me to seize the day, go with the flow, and a few other tattered cliches. It tells me to breathe deeply and laugh often, to throw off the shackles of transitioning in place to more fully immerse myself in nature and humanity, even if it means going down with the ship of empire. Or maybe that’s the limbic part of my brain rising to the fore, not my heart. My obnoxiously contrarian brain — the cognitive part to which I’m particularly well tuned — chimes in with unwelcome advice aimed at convincing people of our dire straits, as if I’ve made even a minor difference, while of course trying to destroy this irredeemably corrupt system.

In addition to my overdeveloped science side, I’ve no doubt there are other contributors to my inability to lean toward heartfelt intuition. Five decades of cultural programming come immediately to mind.

Integrating these two disparate approaches seems impossible, although I didn’t see it that way when I was asking students to do it. On the other hand, I didn’t realize they were running around like blue arsed flies, an approach I’ve subsequently adopted (thanks to Sue from the U.K. for information about the blue arsed fly). Perhaps that’s why I can’t answer this question: How does does one simultaneously follow his heart and his brain when they point in opposite directions?

This internal struggle feels like a battle for my non-existent soul. That reason rules, for now, leaves my heart in shards. The inability to integrate myself, to become fully human, leaves me with heartache that is irreconcilable and perhaps even lethal. After all, human survival requires a heart and a brain.


Please join me in supporting Mike Sosebee’s film. To learn more, click here.

Comments 71

  • Perhaps that’s why I can’t answer this question: How does does one simultaneously follow his heart and his brain when they point in opposite directions?

    I wish I was more familiar with other wise teachings, but this one is pretty good, nonetheless:

    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
    Matthew 6:24 Christian Bible.

    Personally, I’ve always advised following your heart. It may not be the smartest choice, but it will be the choice that brings you the most satisfaction and the feeling of being true to yourself.

    Peace, my friend.

  • I might add that none of us knows the future. Yes, we can use our scientific brains and make some pretty well educated guesses, but none of us knows for sure. How much time do we have left? Sure doesn’t seem like much, but we just don’t know for sure. Just as a black swan can unexpectedly change the outcome for the negative, it can also change the outcome for the positive (whatever that is).

    Maybe it’s too late for humanity, but does that mean it’s too late for all the other species? Perhaps our efforts now should be focused on saving them.

  • Your anguish is vivid. You write that you are unable to integrate yourself and thus become fully human; I think this struggle, this recognition of vastly different ways of being/perceiving/operating in the world, this epic heartache and cognitive suffering, is as fully human as it gets. I don’t think we get to be fully human once we’ve figured it all out- no, we get to flounder in the muck and be human that way. The alternatives, I suppose, are to be numb, or convinced of a One and Only True Way, or dead.

    Maybe you’ve convinced enough people of our dire straits? How does one measure “enough?” For that matter, how does one measure “making a difference?” If making a difference means changing the hearts and minds of billions, I’m not sure that’s within anyone’s power. What if you make a difference to a single person? Is it enough? If it’s too late to avoid near-term extinction, maybe making a difference could be providing explanations and narratives that can help people make sense of things, and/or serving as a sort of cultural hospice worker?

    “As if I’ve made even a minor difference.” That depends on what kind of difference you think matters. You’ve made a difference in my life. You’ve made a difference in my daughter’s life. My heart is shattered, too, to think of my beautiful five-year-old suffering, dying and bearing witness to unspeakable destruction. But because of the sorts of things you and others have written about or talked about or made films about, the topics you haven’t shied away from, the refusal to lie or maintain the veil of denial, the exhortations to act: these have made a huge difference in my ability to cope with living in this culture, and to take action on behalf of my family and community. Above all, both my brain and heart insist loudly that being fully present and awake and finding joy in the midst of suffering are the ground I need to stand on. It’s impossible to be fully present, using all of one’s capacities for critical thinking, as well as opening one’s heart with compassion, and NOT take action. And it’s impossible to tolerate the suffering without making room for the joy.

  • “…Near-term extinction is locked in because of Fukushima (times 400 and change) and the climate-change result of exponential methane release in the Arctic. Both paths of horror indicate our species has a few decades at most….but I’m trying to maintain my trademark optimism….”

    It nicer to be optimistic,
    But, although it might seem too simplistic:
    Since it seems our world view
    Might really come true,
    We might as well be realistic.

  • I feel the same split in my “imaginary” soul, but this soul is not so imaginary as we might imagine. There is something eternal in us– the star-stuff we are made of, as we are, after all the universe looking at itself. Even from mere this gross physical fact, something real comes into focus. Yes, there are seemingly insurmountable problems facing the collective experience of self-reflective consciousnesses known as “humanity”, but these problems have to do more with the cohesion of the mass known as “civilization” with all it’s complexities, cities, highways, economic systems, Monday morning commutes, tax filings, mass agriculture, reliance on fossil fuels, and never ending mass consumption. The core of what we our, our humanity, can exist outside of the modern civilization, and indeed, even with a severe drop in species, climate change, etc. it is possible that some humans, somewhere will survive a pending collapse of civilization. Indeed, this collapse might be (okay, will be) painful and brutish and full of blood letting, and few will survive and the species may be culled, but again, it is possible that enough will survive somewhere, somehow, that whatever is most beautiful about this particular form of self-reflective consciousness will go on being self-reflective enough to remember that we are star-stuff, and we are one way the universe looks at itself for reasons only the universe knows.

  • The various distinctions such as “heart” and “mind” are operative at the highest level where most selves reside.

    The “I” perceives ownership of these (“my heart”, “my mind”) as of everything else (“my body”, “my world”, etc.) and can distinguish itself from all of these. Even the subtlest thoughts and feelings can be distinguished from the self (“not-I”), but awareness is needed before any of them can exist within the domain of one’s awareness. 

    Awareness is outwardly directed when one is aware of the “not-I”. The “I” is the substrate on which everything is predicated. Attempts to direct the awareness towards itself create a “virtual I”, and the duality persists. When the awareness resides in Itself, the duality of “I” and “not-I” does not exist (the duality does not “cease” to exist, since it does not really exist in the first place – that is why “enlightenment” is not “attained”).

    That state is the real nature of all sentient beings. Most of them reside outside the Self, where the “I” becomes operative, but all sentience has its Source in the Self.

    Relevant books online

  • Surrender

    There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the ‘I’ and merging into that source. The other is feeling ‘I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me’, and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation.

    The former is the non-theistic way, not requiring a belief in G_d. 

    The latter is the method is approximated in
    Matthew 6:24
    King James Version (KJV)
    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

  • Sorry about the bad link for Surrender.
    HTML tags show no mercy.

  • Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow is the second studio album by American funk band Funkadelic, released in July 1970 on Westbound Records.[1] The inspiration for this album was, according to George Clinton, an attempt to “see if we can cut a whole album while we’re all tripping on acid.”[1]

    The album and its title track, a feedback-drenched number taking a third of the album’s length, introduces the subversion of Christian themes explored on later songs, describing a mystical approach to salvation in which “the Kingdom of Heaven is within” and achievable through freeing one’s mind, after which one’s ass will follow. Many of the songs (such as the title track and “Eulogy and Light”) subvert Christian themes, including the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm.[1]

    The album and eponymous song influenced the band En Vogue, leading to the title of their hit song “Free Your Mind (song)”.

  • I plead relevance!

    “Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil”

    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”

  • Freeing one’s mind does not free oneself any more than freeing a pet animal frees oneself. The mind belongs to the “I”, but is not the “I”.

  • “this internal struggle feels like a battle for my non-existant soul”
    For something so non-existant it sure seems to be making it’s presence felt Guy.
    C.S.Lewis puts it like this

    “you are a soul, you have a body.”

    There seems to be many people walking this Earth who act like they dont have a heart, soul, mind or anything else but you are most definately not one of them.

  • You lost me fairly early on because there is a group that has studied it a lot.

    Sociology is the place to go. Granted there “science” is somewhat of the sideways approach to science, but a lot of what I have seen is pretty methodical and well thought out. The key is to ignore their modern-day politics.

    Another area to look at would be Cliodynamics, which is an attempt at the intersection of biology and human culture. If you google Peter Turchin’s webpage, you will see a link to some journals there.

    I have not looked at it recently, but I also seem to recall the econo-physics crowd getting into the act.

    There is a lot out there. It is just very diffuse, and hard to initially find.

  • Ahhh, the mysterious “inner” life. You know professor, if it weren’t for that, I’d have no life at all.
    here’s a little fun exercise for you. Visualize in your mind, yourself as a little child.
    Picture a time when you were in trouble, or danger, or terribly afraid.
    Now, picture yourself as you are now, a strong adult. A man.
    Go to the child in your mind and rescue him. Take him someplace wonderful and safe. Love that child.

    Feel better?
    We start out as souls, spirits, intuitive beings. The child in you is the keeper of the soul.
    Save the child.

    your friend

  • Hello Guy,

    Of all your essays,this is so far my favorite one. I left research 10 years ago, at the beginning of a promising career. Already back then I was torn apart by what you call the right and left brain hemisphere divide. I think we all start naively on this pathway believing that science will help inform policies and that the outcomes will be the best solutions for the planet and the people. It comes as a surprise when we realize it is used to reinforce and to paper-wall the fundamental flaws of our living arrangements, for example, the disconnect between people and nature. What bugged me the most was that no amount of scientific knowledge made a dent in the rapid demise of the small family farms. For me, it boiled down to one fundamental realization: when less than 5% have any kind of meaningful connection with the land, the majority cant grow a true love, responsibility and sense of stewardship toward it. I could not change the system, but I could stop cashing blood money and plug back straight into the soil at a personal level. So I quit. But in the beginning, as much as I hated feeling to be a tool, it took a long while to be at peace with giving up all the validation which comes with being recognized inside the system. We loose some of our power of persuasion with a lot of folks who attach much significance to social status. For most of the people in my rural community, I am the lady who shovel sheep manure, not anymore Doctor G. They could not really understand what kind of crazy maniac would give up a career with so many perks when themselves toiled so hard for so long in back breaking,low paying jobs.

    It will sound very corny, but I think the healing process begin the day we reconnect in the concrete with the land, what I call making love to the Earth. As our love grows stronger through our actions, what needs to be done appears clearer and more meaningful at a personal level. Bit by bit, the mind settles as we expand the circle of our compassion and our concern to the grass, the trees, the earthworms, the birds, the people… Also,it takes time to come to terms with our personal limits. We cant save the world all on our own, but we can build a bat house, we can plant one tree, we can give away a few extra zucchinis to a neighbor. And we come to accept that in this culture of death, most of our good deeds and small victories go unacknowledged, like when a few nights ago I saved that small toad which got trapped in the basement. We know the industrial civilization is dying. All of us who choose a different road are the midwives of a new world. Will it be a successful delivery or will it be still born? If we fret too much about the outcome, we freeze and don’t do what need to be done now. I can tell you that the every day toil of taking care of my small farm, planting a garden, delivering lambs renewed the faith I had lost running field trials and writing papers. Life is strong and Mother Nature has a big bag of tricks and is amazing in its capacity to heal, given half a chance. In any case,I stick to this Terry Pratchett quote:


  • When I was a Hospice Volunteer I met an activist who berated me for putting my energies there because sitting and talking to dying people didn’t CHANGE anything. Little did he know that that was one of the reasons I was doing Hospice Volunteering. I had seen efforts at change fail over and over and I just wanted to do something for someone else just because… I also have accepted death as being a mercy at times and have never had death fears that others have (fear of dying in a painful way yes, being dead no). I wrote of that here Further I gained the good feelings of helping someone else and a lot of love and affirmation.

    I just finished reading “Too Smart for our Own Good” by Craig Dilworth. He makes a strong case for humans having become sapient fire and tool users to have set themselves in an ever increasing vicious circle that inevitably plays out to the end of civilization and quite possibly homo sapiens. With 400+ Fukushimas hanging over our head, (all the nuke plants in the world that are not decommissioned before the grid finally fails going into meltdown), it seems that there is no salvation. So changing the world seems a futile task.

    But just as I was there for so many people who were dying, we can be there for each other and do those good things we choose to do as the circle makes its final turn. Things don’t have to CHANGE, the world doesn’t have to be SAVED for caring and good to happen. We are after all only animals with programs and characteristics that apparently aren’t all that “fit” for long term survival of our species.

  • We’re chasing a different carrot because of your influence…thank you.

  • **How does does one simultaneously follow his heart and his brain when they point in opposite directions?**

    You don’t …. happiness counts for a lot in life. Maybe Mr Left Brain it is time to allow your right brain to walk with you when you choose the heart over the head?

    You may be surprised at just how freeing it is.

  • When head and heart go differetn directions, always best to follow heart. As a person fluent in both worlds, art and science, my observations point to – while science seems to rule now, it is rapidly taking back seat to art that will rule/dominate in the future, near future and especially 20 years and beyond. My book is a poetic approach to what will be possible after the crumble/collapse of what you call Industrial Civilization. The first 4 chapters are available at for free. My gift to people hungry for the light. We can move toward the light making the changes real in this present moment. Create a language to express the deeper meaning of being human.

    A healing balm for post pretroleum stress disorder.

    I Love you Guy, Rock on!

  • Glad to see new names on the comments. Welcome.

  • “How does does one simultaneously follow his heart and his brain when they point in opposite directions?” In that phrasing, with that metaphor of directions (as though your heart and soul were sitting and arguing at the corner of Oak and Main) you obviously can’t solve it. You’ve built the unsolvability into the question. So, if you’re serious, find yourself a different metaphor. I know that sounds flippant, but I think I’m being serious.

  • I like that idea, Andy, and take it seriously. Maybe we can build upon it.

    I was taught (and can’t think of a different perspective at the moment) that there is no literature without conflict. Without it, then we just have a bunch of technical graphs and things. There is no art. -We get no idea what Guy feels exactly, or a sense of his humanity (?). The lectures aren’t so fun, but we don’t want conflict exactly. But then we just get what is there –temperature charts, etc. We want to “make a difference” and we can’t do that without a conflict/alternative. So, then it is innocuous, like head and heart pointing in different directions, but it gets us to think. Perhaps that is a necessity. Yet and still, I’m all for a resolution!

  • There seems to be many people walking this Earth who act like they dont have a heart, soul, mind or anything else

    Not many, extremely few. Such people are Buddhas.

    The Diamond Sutra, A New Translation by Alex Johnson – Chapter 14:

    “Most Honored One, having listened to this Sutra, I am able to receive and retain it with faith and understanding. This is not difficult for me, but in ages to come – in the last five hundred years, if there is a person who hears this Sutra, who receives and retains it with faith and understanding, then that person will be a rare one, a person of most remarkable achievement. Such a person will be able to awaken pure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self. Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things. Buddhas are Buddhas because they have been able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of form and phenomena, they have transcended all perceptions, and have penetrated the illusion of all forms.”

  • When I hear the latest on Fukishima or about all the methane being released the main thing I say”Well,there is no use hating anyone now”

  • Anatta or soul-lessness

    This Buddhist doctrine of rebirth should be distinguished from the theory of reincarnation which implies the transmigration of a soul and its invariable material rebirth. Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal soul created by a God or emanating from a Divine Essence (Paramatma)………

  • And we come to accept that in this culture of death, most of our good deeds and small victories go unacknowledged,

    Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. 

  • Things don’t have to CHANGE, the world doesn’t have to be SAVED


    The Three Features if Existence:

    All composite things are transient. Change is the very nature of existence, at whatever timescales, and whether perceptible or not. We do not have to – or not have to – be the agents of change. Just chop wood and carry water.

    All entities are without an abstractable essence – there is no soul. There is nothing to be saved, whether at the level of the subatomic particle or the universe, or at any intermediate level.

    And lest we overlook:

    All composite things are of the nature of sorrow. There is no unconditional joy in them.

    Related reading:

  • We all over estimate our significance, so our constant failure rankles.
    Insanely long runs and physical jerk sessions followed by massage helps.
    We are just idiot apes and need the correct feedback :¬)

  • Jean ”Well,there is no use hating anyone now”

    Best words of wisdom I have heard in a long long time. Thanks

  • The Heartland Institute has paid to put up billboards in Chicago comparing anyone who believes in Climate Change to the Unabomber and Charles Manson. Here’s one example:

  • At this point, some would say that it matters little whether or not we deny climate: we will be served a rump roast – our own rumps.

  • I constantly struggle with the left hemisphere/right hemisphere dilemma and Guy is the first other person I have encountered who conceptualizes this continual tension in the same way. I suspect that my Meyers-Briggs type INTP, exacerbates the problem.

    Speaking for myself, I use my intellectual capacity to run away from the discomfort of sitting with feelings of helplessness and fear. When I notice this, I try to stop what I am doing and be with the feelings, as much as I feel like I can tolerate.

    Guy, I saw you speak in Cummington, MA. I felt a strong bond with you and your ideas. When it was time for questions, someone asked if you were worried that the travel infrastructure would collapse while you were on tour and that you wouldnt be able to get home to your homestead. You said you were not worried because you considered yourself a martyr.

    I am not trained in philosophy, but am curious if martyrdom is really the best way to go. Perhaps I do not understand because personally I do not have the gifts that you do for public speaking and broadcasting ideas to anyone outside my small circle of trusted allies.

  • Jen, your writing is clear, direct, and strong. Thank you for that.

    Jean, your words resonate. Sally and I often think of our present predicament in terms of being on a plane that is going down. The question arises, as the plane heads towards its catastrophic collision with real ground, “who do we want to be in these moments?” Do we want to spend that time screaming and panicking and struggling? Or might there be some more graceful way? As Sally says, maybe, in those moments, we could simply reach out to the person next to us and love them. This video always moves me in that regard:

    Guy, I have long said that perhaps our present predicament holds an opportunity to find out who we will be in the face of The Insoluble Problem (a great learning for a culture of problem-solvers, to be sure…). It looks to me as though you are staring “the insoluble” right in the face, and in that respect you may be doing a “great work” for the “collective consciousness.” There is helplessness to be felt there, I think. Powerlessness. Surrender. Loss. All of those things our culture tells us are to be avoided. And yet, I think there is great truth to be found there, if we can stay with the pain and grief long enough to find it. I thank you for being on that journey. Please know that you do not walk that path alone.

    Peace, all. T

  • The photographer Eric Valli has captured what living off the grid is like for a few Americans.

  • Guy

    Very insightful essay. I truly enjoyed it. But I am a tad concerned about your concept of ‘left v right’ brain conflicts and choices. Why does everyone seem to think that it is an either/or situation? I see it more as a marriage, or a highly symbiotic relationship – either of which must be carefully and thoughtfully managed and nurtured if one is to expect success.

    Just as in a marriage we have two individuals with both mutual and conflicting interests, and two ways of approaching problems, so too in our constant dealings with ‘left and right’ brain activity we have the same. The key, in my mind (left or right), is to manage that relationship in a way that is agreeable to both parties concerned without either feeling left out or denigrated.

    Often this takes honesty with oneself, and time. For highly contentious issues there is usually a compromise that can be found. Seek that middle ground and go for it. For other issues you might find that the solution lies in 100% heart, or 100% logic – but for either of those, the 0% side needs to recognise that this is the solution and be willing to live with it.

    Your struggle is real. And so many of us share it. But never think that the choice is simply between one or the other. And as in any good marriage, the choice is always involves both parties.

  • Robin F, I believe you misunderstood, or perhaps I misspoke. When I spoke in Cummington I suspect I said I wouldn’t mind martyring myself on behalf the demise of the industrial economy. If collapse was complete while I was on the road, my life would be a small price to pay.

    With respect to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m an extreme ISTJ. It’s why a few of my friends call me Professor Black & White. And that, Victor, addresses your question as well.

  • Between black and white is not gray but all the colors of the rainbow.

  • Guy

    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is meant to identify personality type so that knowing this, such personality types can be properly managed. That goes for yourself as well. It is not a good answer to rely upon such an indicator and use it as an excuse for not doing the right thing. It should be used to recognise your tendencies and manage that to a more satisfying life.

    OTOH, if you enjoy the excruciating pleasure of pain, then stick to your current course… :-)

  • Guy don’t be a big American, your fed up, long runs combined with workouts or press ups / pull ups then massage will make any monkey feel happier – that is proven in science.

    The indicator you quote was developed as a time and motion tools by idiot monkeys to improve the WWII effort and guess what science shows it is bunkum:
    ‘The use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a predictor of job success has not been supported in studies,[15][16] and its use for this purpose is expressly discouraged in the Manual – from the wiki’

  • I am an ENTJ and proud!!


    Wow! I work with people everyday who have little or no sense of self. TRUST ME when I tell you they feel far from enlightened!!

    In my counselling training it was hammered into me that a strong sense of self and the ability to intergrate that self into it’s many parts is crucial to mental health and well being.

  • Frankly I get more convinced every day that the extinction of the human species is the best outcome

    Footage of Judge Rotenberg Center torturing a person with a disability aired in court (Graphic) – have a stiff drink before watching.

    Yeah yeah I know, there are good people, who do good things and live in good ways, but there are always evil people who do very evil things and we can’t seem to have the one without the other. So lets just have neither. No one will miss us if we are all gone.

    A Jewish saying Life is so terrible, it would have been better not to have been born. Who is so lucky? Not one in a hundred thousand!

  • But since we do still exist –
    Hi, my name is Gregory Miller. I used to work at a school in Massachusetts named The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) where we used powerfully painful electric shock devices (45 – 91 milliamps, at 66 volts) on students to control their behaviors. These devices are much stronger than police stun guns (1-4 milliamps). Unlike stun guns, the electrodes most commonly used at school are spaced 3 – 4 inches apart so that the electrical volts passing through the flesh create the maximum amount of pain with those amps and volts. The United Nations is aware of JRC, has called these shocks at JRC “torture”, and says that “The prohibition of torture is absolute.” Please see the attached video of a student named Andre getting shocked at JRC, covered by Fox News.

    Rather than shocking students for only severe behaviors, JRC also shocks students for minor behaviors, such as closing eyes for 15 seconds while sitting at the desk, pulling apart a loose piece of thread, tearing an empty used paper cup, going to the bathroom in one’s clothes after signing that they need to use the bathroom for over two hours, standing up and raising a hand to ask to go to the bathroom, blowing small bubbles in saliva between one’s lips, and shocking a non-verbal nearly blind girl with cerebral palsy for making a moaning sound and for attempts to hold a staff’s hand (her attempts to communicate and to be loved).

    I would greatly appreciate your help to protect my former students by petitioning Massachusetts legislators to make these shock procedures illegal. These students are among Massachusetts’ most vulnerable citizens and have no voice of their own to describe their pain. They need YOUR voice!

    Whether you are an American, or are from elsewhere within the United Nations, I urge you to please CLICK on the Petition Letter tab to carefully read the petition that is based on what I have personally witnessed at JRC, and sign the petition. Then please invite as many friends as you can through http://www.Change.Org, email, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, to sign this petition. Please value these student lives enough to let Massachusetts know that Americans do not condone shock procedures in this country. Thank you.


    Gregory Miller

  • Wow! I work with people everyday who have little or no sense of self. TRUST ME when I tell you they feel far from enlightened!!

    In my counselling training it was hammered into me that a strong sense of self and the ability to intergrate that self into it’s many parts is crucial to mental health and well being.

    The “strong sense of self” is the root of the problem. It is the opposite of selflessness. 

    Prehaps the items at the following link may help:
    ‘Series On Sense of Self’ at Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life

    Enlightenment (which is the cessation of the sense of “I” and “not-I”).
    From the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 (translation by Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood), the characteristics of the enlightened one:

    Not shaken by adversity,
    Not hankering after happiness:
    Free from fear, free from anger,
    Free from the things of desire.
    I call him a seer, and illumined.

    The bonds of his flesh are broken.
    He is lucky, and does not rejoice:
    He is unlucky, and does not weep.
    I call him illumined.

    The tortoise can draw in his legs:
    The seer can draw in his senses.
    I call him illumined.

    The abstinent run away from what they desire
    But carry their desires with them:
    When a man enters Reality,
    He leaves his desires behind him.

    Water flows continually into the ocean
    But the ocean is never disturbed:
    Desire flows into the mind of the seer
    But he is never disturbed.

    A man does not fall back from it
    Into delusion.
    Even at the moment of death
    He is alive in that enlightenment:
    God and he are one.

  • Oh dear, it seems I’m spreading disinformation! It turns out that the animal skin clad youths photographed by Eric Valli I linked to earlier are not really living off the grid. It’s apparently some sort of outside adventure you can sign up for for a week or two.

  • This is an off topic, and it passes a link to Jennifer for her future work on Homeschool article she authored.

  • An addendum to K’s “ACEs Too High” link for Jennifer:

    The Bomb in the Brain: The True Roots of Human Violence – by Freedomain Radio

  • ‘Buddhas are Buddhas because they have been able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of form and phenomena, they have transcended all perceptions, and have penetrated the illusion of all forms.”

    this reminds me of richard bach’s ILLUSIONS: ADVENTURES OF A RELUCTANT MESSIAH. i’m definitely not a buddha, it seems. it raises this question for me: if our life experiences are all illusory, aren’t our lives then purposeless, meaningless, and worthless? what’s the point of illusions? where is surreality? perhaps surreality is pure illusion? am i on the road to buddhaville, with these illusory thoughts? (llam! -laugh like a maniac!)

  • make that (ml- maniacal laugh), for future reference (sml- subdued maniacal laugh)

  • I have yet to encounter a reasoned and convincing argument that Homo Sapiens Destructo is a species worth saving. From the Pleistocene Extinction through to This Moment humanity has not made a very convincing case that it is anything other than an evolutionary mistake, a maladaptive dead-end. Unfortunately we are likely going to exterminate the only biosphere in the Universe which we know of.

    As far as the nuclear extermination option goes, I personally think this is the best bet we have to remove our destructive influence whilst giving the biosphere the only chance it will get. Chernobyl gives us a notion that life can and will continue, although perhaps diminished, after a severe nuclear accident. If economic collapse or massive solar storms cause catastrophic nuclear events which wipe humanity off the face of the Earth, I say the sooner the better. The sooner humanity is gone the better a chance there is for the rest of the biosphere. Nuclear war would be better because it would blanket the earth with a high-atmosphere layer of dust for a couple of hundred years giving the planet a chance to cool and perhaps even slowing or stopping methane releases from the tundra and chlathrates whilst the oceans, lands and biosphere can deal with the carbon monoxide we have released. This way the Terminator species is elimanated and complex life may be able to persist.

    If anyone chooses to react angrily to my comments, please include a reasoned and rational and convincing argument as to why, after all we have done to the Earth and to each other (we are the only species which enslaves, exterminates and tortures it’s own kind in mass for profit, convenience and fun) we, Homo Sapiens Destructo, actually deserve to persist.

    Thank you.

  • ‘Related reading:

    if wise man wish to teach, wise man facilitate learning by posting links to texts with type face large and well spaced enough not to strain aging eyes.

    so says the buddha terry (sml)

  • Jean Says: ”Well,there is no use hating anyone now”

    hating abuse/humiliation is a reaction, not a choice. it’s only natural to hate the source. it’s a survival trait. because at some point, abuse and humiliation become deadly.

  • I am also bemused, confused, intrigued by the prevalence of Religion in the comments on this blog. On this post we have everything from the Gospels to the Bhagvad Gita to Buddhism With Beliefs through the fallacy of people having split brains to the newage incomprehendum of us as star stuff made conscious. This I object to the most – the hubris that a sniveling, pack-hunting, carnivorous, maladaptive ape is somehow the Witnessor To The Universe. How anthropocentric is that?

    As far as left-brain/right-brain the only persons with this style of thinking are the few on the planet who have undergone the severing of the corpus callosum as treatment for severe epilepsy. The doctor who performed the ground breaking research on these split-brained patients, Sperry, has exhausted himself in trying to get people to understand this is how the brain works when the corpus callosum is severed; it is NOT how normal brains work.

    Anyway, what is it with all the religion? I don’t get it. We are facing a biosphere destroying event caused by us and some of us are still glancing up for a glimpse of the Big Man In The Sky? How is it the metaphors of essentilly stone-aged tribes are relevant to this human caused destruction?

    Just asking. A reasoned, rational response would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • K and Robin Datta, thanks for the links. My comments below are also off-topic.

    K, I read the article about Lincoln High School in Walla Walla and was most struck by a) the staggering amounts of suffering and stress the students had endured in their lives, and b) the unconditional love offered by the teachers and staff. It reminded me of Kathy C’s comments after my essay about homeschooling, saying she was far better off going to school than being at home, and I agree, for so many, school is more of a refuge from home than anything else. If only more schools could adopt that stance of unconditional love that is sorely missing in almost every context in this culture. If only PARENTS could adopt that stance of unconditional love. It hurts to think of all the wounded children in the world, including the ones who have grown up. I have some Adverse Childhood Experiences (as the referenced article calls them) of my own, and I’ve come to realize that trauma of all kinds is really the norm. Terrifying to realize. I want to emphasize, I’m not a proponent of homeschooling as a cure-all and something that everyone should do; clearly, some kids need to get as much distance as possible from their abusive families, and receive love and support elsewhere, if it’s to be found. I’m wary, though, of “schooling vs. homeschooling” debates; the issues involved are too complex to be reduced to simplistic answers. Mostly I think we could all use a lot more unconditional love.

    Robin Datta, I haven’t watched the video series yet, and suspect I won’t have enough time; it wasn’t clear to me how long they are. Are they about how trauma affects brain development and learning?

  • MDMA- I do not suggest a discussion with some man in the sky.

    Perhaps it is arrogant to think of your own culture as the most destructive, but the bible is the book of the west and American-ism is the fiber of my being… Perhaps yours also? I suggest that we might be more reverent of nature or the blessing that is life, and that obviously we have had (and articulated) perfectly satisfactory solutions for some time. Much of our discussion, and yours, has centered on the question of evil, or perhaps being beyond redemption. We are questioning our sensations and hallucinations, our normalcy bias, and looking for a notion of truth to move forward with as we seem to care about the present state of our affairs.

    …describing a mystical approach to salvation in which “the Kingdom of Heaven is within” and achievable through freeing one’s mind, after which one’s ass will follow.

    Our EARTH in GRACE,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

  • Living in a state of continuous grief, interrupted by distractions.

  • if our life experiences are all illusory, aren’t our lives then purposeless, meaningless, and worthless?

    As long as the experiencer, the experiencing and the experience are separate, there will arise such questions. It means that there still is an “I” and a “not-I”. The passage quoted in bold from the Diamond Sutra also points to this.

    posting links to texts with type face large and well spaced enough

    The God Steve Jobs has allowed copying and pasting on the iPhone 3G. The typeface defaults to whatever happens to be there. 

    glancing up for a glimpse of the Big Man In The Sky?

    Perhaps a limitation is the size and the boldness of the type, in the quotes in bold from the Diamond Sutra above. 

    Are they about how trauma affects brain development and learning?

    Yes. The first video is 20+ minutes (less than 30 minutes) and a pretty good summary of all the rest. The duration of each video is usually displayed with the controls for the video player for most players for most operating systems. It is visible the moment the video starts.

  • Madmanintheattic – working with Sperry Dr. Gazzaniga found some intriguing differences in the split brain humans
    The left brain, if lacking information, will create stories to explain things it doesn’t understand. It does it very quickly. So one wonders how much of what we think and say are in fact just fabrications.

    bub – I don’t agree that life is a blessing. Existing for some is pure hell all the way through (imagine being one of the 1 billion that eke out a life on $1 a day, imagine being sold into sex slavery by your parents as a young child). Existing for others is mixed with good and bad. Existing for rabbits is a continual effort to avoid hawks and foxes. Existing means we have to die, which is what humans seem to fear most. Non-existing is nothing. All the potential you’s that could have existed had a different sperm reached that egg never have to suffer a cut, suffer a sadness, suffer death. Is it a great sadness that they don’t exist instead of you? If life is a blessing, absolutely, perhaps we should create all the new lives we possibly can so we have more blessedness in the world – 10 or 15 per woman? I have held starving babies in Haiti. I would not considered their lives blessed. If we went around creating all the “blessed” lives we could there would be so much more overpopulation that all would end up as “blessed” as those starving babies. Easy to feel life is a blessing when one has a pretty good one.

    However once we do exist we might as well make the best of it….and help others make the best of it too.

  • Katy C
    The first of the Four Noble Truths – the same as the Third Feature of Existence – is that All Composite Things are of the Nature of Sorrow. You rightly note the plight of rabbits. But you also point to the Right Coures: make the best of it….and help others make the best of it too.
    Another instance of a little manifesting of “Buddha-nature”.

  • That’s “Right Course”.

  • In jest and strange jargon, I had hoped to use the word blessing in the absence of a confounding divinity, in the sense of an opportunity emanating from the earth. It is what we have, suffering or not. I admit to being an ecologist. Without the concept of angels in the sky, “Heaven” then is a choice for us collectively. I suggest that our conversation here has sought a solution to the questions that keep Admiral McPherson awake throughout the evening hours. –How to proceed? I plead for relevance to that one question here. (Back on topic, please?) The spiritual guidance of others has largely failed. I could gladly do without others preaching gospel as a way for us to think. I only see historical context and do not suggest a single path through the bible or gita. Neither the perception of meaninglessness, nor holiness, is sufficient as a basis for destroying our opportunity –*this*– that has (obviously;) emanated from the flying spaghetti monster.

  • I sort of remember John Rember saying something about our needing to hold one thing in our mind, then test alternatives against that. It is a complicated thing to think of different approaches at once. In the subject matter posted by Guy, we have a contrast of art and science, of black and white, of simultaneous alternatives amidst uncertainty. We have irreverence that meets prayerful-ness, if you will, and a question about how to resolve the data we observe.

  • Many apologies for the incompleteness of my ideas.

    Develop them and complete them!

    In the post-modern era, it has all been said before.

    The classical approach does not suffice to say something new.

    I am not innocent.

    But what have you got, -what have you got, can you dig, -can you dig?

  • How to proceed? 
    ……It is a complicated thing to think of different approaches at once.

    Chop wood and carry water.
    It is simpler but more difficult to reside in the source of the thoughts. The further afield, the larger the number of confronting approaches. 

  • Kathy C Says:
    “…I don’t agree that life is a blessing. Existing for some is pure hell all the way through….”

    Losing Hope

    In olden days, folks could still grope
    For a future, which helped them to cope;
    With the future now gone,
    There’s less cause to go on,
    And hella less reason for hope.

  • Jaron: too late, those off the grid pictures are starting to show up everywhere on the web, with no explanation about the last group. I loved them and forwarded them to all our friends.

    Just finished canning 24 pints of dandelion flower jelly. Quite good, you should all try some.

  • Kathy C Says: Frankly I get more convinced every day that the extinction of the human species is the best outcome

    Footage of Judge Rotenberg Center torturing a person with a disability aired in court (Graphic) – have a stiff drink before watching.

    kathy, i signed the petition urging proper ‘authorities’ in massachusettes to shut that mother down. i tried to add a personal comment to the signature, not sure it went through. the gist of it was: ‘shut the school down. only a sick society would condone it’s operation. this is definitely a sick society. only question is: how sick?’

    incredibly sick. i just read up a bit on this so-called school. get a load of this from wiki: ‘It has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charging $220,000 a year for each student.[5]’

    another quote from the canton patch (corporate) ‘news’: “For 40 years, Matthew Israel has profited by and made a career of preying on the most vulnerable of our citizens, our disabled children,” Joyce said in his statement. “In just the past 10 years, Israel’s JRC spent over $15 million on lawyers, members of my own profession, to protect an enterprise that generated over $400 million in revenue during that same period. That career is now brought to a shameful end.”

    apparently there’s big bucks in the ‘behavior modification’ business in ‘the greatest country in the world today’, the good old u.s. of a. i suggest a name alteration that will make it’s initials more appropriately militaristic, u.s.s.g, the united states of sadism and greed. sadistic greed about encapsulates the ‘american’ establishment. anything goes for a lousy buck. stupidity, insanity, and depravity all in one neat package.

    i’m disgusted with myself for being associated with such perversion. back to the quote at the beginning of this comment, i agree with kathy c, almost. i still hold out very slim hope for our species long term survival and spiritual rehabilitation, once civilization is history.

  • Madmanintheattic Says: This I object to the most – the hubris that a sniveling, pack-hunting, carnivorous, maladaptive ape is somehow the Witnessor To The Universe. How anthropocentric is that?

    i agree, crazy dude. buddhism is for anesthetising spiritual pain, pretending it’s possible not to give a shit about anything, and striving to gain such ‘enlightenment’ while alive. death brings ‘enlightenment’, hopefully.

  • Been in Atlanta with my 96 year old dad for a few days. How can people live in cities???

    Benjamin – nice to come home and find a limerick based on my comments – thanks.

    Now to catch up on the bug patrol in the garden and then to have a little joy tomorrow when our third setting hen hatches out chicks. I may have dark thoughts about humanity, but I have glowing thoughts about baby chicks (even though half of them will end up in the stew pot).

  • Guy, have you tried Rhodiola rosea?

    It has dramatically decreased my anxiety level, without side-effects, other than some increased energy without the nervy edge of caffeine. I was so impressed that I bought some seed. But it likes the cold — don’t know how it would get along with the Sonoran Desert.

    If that doesn’t work, try chocolate, good for heartbreak, according to my Ayurvedic doctor, unless you take too much, in which case it can cause symptoms of heartbreak.

    Seriously, I’ve rarely had your problem. I don’t know if my heart convinces my mind, or vice-versa, but I generally go about things undivided. Sometimes, it might be better if I had more inner-conflict about things, but generally, I just figure out what works, and then Just Do It. Must be my INTJ type talking…

    Several here have urged you to “follow your heart.” I must conditionally disagree.

    Your emotions are your guidance system, but your intellect is the executive branch. The heart doesn’t accomplish; it advises. The mind is what gets things done. So if “follow your heart” really means “listen to your emotions,” I have no problem. But if it means, “pay no attention to your mind” or “follow your heart to the exclusion of your mind,” then you might as well get a frontal lobotomy, as the reptilian medulla oblongata will suffice.

    But I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. So drinking your heart into submission is also a short-term option, albeit unsustainable and destructive in the long term.

    Which brings me back to adaptogens. Among the skills Homo petroleolus has lost is natural medical care. Even herbalists and naturopaths prescribe herbs grown in China or tinctures made by industrial processes. Adaptogens are a category of herbal remedies that help one adapt to changing situations, sorta like today’s planet.

    Very soon after you ensure the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy with fresh air, clean water, healthy food, and comfortable shelter, I think the next thing to do is to put in a medicinal herb garden. That’s my theory, and I’m stickin’ to it. Because I can barely afford $25 for two months’ supply of Rhodiola, one-quarter filling a despicable plastic bottle. Our first crop should be ready in three years.

  • Thanks for the tip, Jan. I’ve not even heard of that plant until now.

    I’ve posted a new essay. It’s here.