American Heart Month: Heartbreak And The Happy Heart

by Carolyn Baker

Broken HeartI saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, does it not?” “You’ve caught me,” grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business, how can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?”


By the time some readers see these words, Valentines Day will have become a distant memory. Nevertheless, the entire month of February has been designated American heart month, and for twenty-eight days we have permission to pay attention to the human organ, the heart, yet throughout the entire year, we have little or no permission to pay attention to the psycho-spiritual “organ” we call “the heart.” During the month of February, however, it is acceptable to think about the physical organ by focusing on heart disease and to cautiously entertain the psycho-spiritual organ on Valentines Day by way of eating chocolate, having sex, and sending flowers.


Modernity has little relationship with the deeper, ancient, spiritual symbolism of the heart. Nor does mass culture connect the high incidence of congestive heart failure with the clogging of emotion, particularly grief, in the body and psyche. Additionally, little attention is paid to the diminished capacity for compassion in cultures fixated on science and technology and how that deficit may be somaticized into “heart failure.”


Industrial civilization trains us to consider compassion toward others and toward ourselves as irrelevant. Author and psychotherapist, Francis Weller notes that compassion arises from the “fertile ground of belonging.” Exile is inherent in modernity—no tribe or community to which we belong. But what does it mean to belong? Does it mean that we are born into a family or particular group of people and that by virtue of carrying their DNA and becoming a member of the family, we belong? My answer to the question is a resounding no. Belonging in traditional cultures meant much more than being part of a family. Rather, it meant that one’s family and indeed the entire community perceived one’s birth as a momentous occurrence. To use language that might be more typical of tribal cultures, the birth of a child was often perceived as an “advent” or a “visitation” from invisible realms and signified a kind of revelation for the entire community. Because the child was perceived as a sacred messenger from eternity, it was the community’s duty to care for, protect, and forever claim the child as its own. From the child’s perspective, he or she would never feel exiled because they always had a home, a soft place to fall, a refuge, a fixed point in a changing universe.


Equally important in traditional cultures was a sense of belonging to the earth. The indigenous man or woman knew that if they lost their entire tribe, they could seek refuge in the earth which was their most elemental tribe.


Such a cellular, deeply-ingrained sense of belonging is not fundamentally cognitive, but rather, heartfelt—communicated from the heart of the community to the heart of the child. In this way compassion is cultivated, both compassion for others and for oneself.


But what is the essence of compassion? Generally, it means “to suffer with” the other. It means the willingness to feel in one’s heart the pain of loss which another person is experiencing—and the pain which we ourselves may be experiencing. It also requires us to feel deeply the pain of other species who are suffering because of humanity’s heartless, bloodless, profit-driven madness. But feeling in itself is not the primary purpose of compassion because compassion is meaningless if we do not act on what we feel to whatever extent we are able.


And while it may be easier to have compassion if it has been ingrained in us by virtue of growing up in a tribe and having a cellular sense of belonging, we can deepen our compassion by cultivating an intimate relationship with the earth. As we deepen our sense of belonging to the earth, we deepen our compassion, as well as our commitment to taking action.


Another means of deepening our compassion, and perhaps easing the “congestive heart failure” of our own bodies and our culture, is to allow heartbreak followed by conscious, intentional grieving. Again, this is not a passive, self-absorbed process in which we mourn without end or without taking action, but rather, a willingness to grieve personal and planetary losses as a healing practice both for ourselves and for other beings. Immediately the question arises: Will an elephant in Africa being murdered for its tusks feel my pain for its tragic demise? Certainly, feeling its pain is not sufficient. Hopefully, the pain motivates us to get involved with organizations that are working to stop the genocide of species or at least support them financially. Yet, I’m not sure that my pain for the endangered elephant has no effect on it. I can’t prove that it does, nor can I prove that it doesn’t.


We know that animals grieve, as verified by countless videos that traverse the internet revealing how a particular creature will not leave a dead or dying mate and may remain by its side for days or weeks after death. If I cannot or will not grieve, then in a sense, I am abdicating my animal self and my relationship with other animal selves.


What I’m really talking about here is the willingness to let our hearts break wide open and why that is not only important but necessary. The inescapable, searing truth is that there is no way we can inhabit a body on this planet and not be confronted with heartbreak at every turn.


If we were to stop resisting what the body and a dying planet are pleading for us to do and instead, open to the heartbreak, we would ultimately experience the magnificent, resplendent, sacred core of our being—and inevitably experience more joy than we imagined possible.

Author and poet, David Whyte, speaking at a Psychotherapy Networker Convention in 2011 on the topic of heartbreak stated:

When you think about it, there is no journey of sincerity that a human being can take in life without having their heart broken. And there’s no love affair you can follow, without that imaginary organ being rent asunder at one time or another. And there’s no marriage, no matter how happy it is, that won’t leave you helpless and wanting at times, leaving you literally with a broken heart.

Not only that, there is no work you can follow without having your heart broken. If you are sincere about your vocation, you will get to thresholds where you will not know how to proceed, and where you will forget yourself, and where you will start to imprison yourself with the very endeavor that was first a doorway to freedom.

And then, in that third marriage with the self, a really sincere examination of the old interior substrate should, if you are sincere, lead to existential disappointment. And, if you don’t become disappointed in yourself, you’re not trying.

So, it’s interesting to think that there is no path a human being can take with real courage that doesn’t lead to real heartbreak. It’s astonishing to see how human beings actually spend an enormous amount of their time and energy turning away from that possibility and trying to arrange for a life where you won’t be touched and you’ll be left immune by the great forces and elements of life.

And, of course, when you leave those forces and elements behind, you leave the very genius at the heart of what you’re attempting to bring into the world, to incarnate into the world, including the incarnation of your own presence.

While grief work is both necessary and empowering when attempting to recover from industrial civilization, it should not be done alone. Certainly some people prefer going off by themselves in order to “have a good cry,” but by both blatant and subtle means, this culture has instilled in us the notion that if we really descend into the depths of our grief, we will never return or we will become clinically depressed or psychotic. And while we may know intellectually that this is not so, our programming against grieving has been quite effective, and usually, some part of us is terrified of delving into it more than superficially. In most cases, the very opposite is true. Trust me, congestive heart failure is not caused by crying too much or too long. We more often get “stuck” in our grief as a result of not feeling it in which case it manifests in less obvious but possibly more surprisingly damaging ways. But in order to grieve safely and without inhibition, we need the support of others.

So why allow heartbreak and embrace our grief? Isn’t this self-indulgent at best and psychologically dangerous at worst? In fact, it is neither. Grief work is the work of responsible, mature women and men. Moreover, as predictably as day follows night, when our hearts are broken open, the very natural and innate joy which is the lifeblood of our humanity is liberated. Or as Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron notes, “This is the beauty of being alive, laughing until you cry or crying until you laugh.” In this culture we think we know what joy feels like, but as with all emotions, joy is multi-layered. Without the catalyst of grief, we are able to experience superficial or even moderately-deep layers of joy, but deep grieving unleashes the deepest layers of joy and in my experience restores wholeness to a fragmented psyche so that we can more skillfully create wholeness in a broken world.

Rumi’s ingenious quote at the beginning of this article captures the quintessential essence of heartbreak: In the end, it can be the most precious gift imaginable if we are willing to follow the path of grief onto which it beckons us. Without heartbreak, there is no happy heart. “Life is glorious,” says Pema Chodron, “but life is also wretched. It is both… One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”


Thursday, 20 February 2014, 5:15 p.m., Singer room, Eugene Public Library, 100 West 10th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon, “Climate Chaos & Resistance to Ecocide: Talks by Guy McPherson and Deep Green Resistance”

Friday, 21 February 2104, 7:00 p.m., Vancouver Public Library, 901 C Street Vancouver, Washington, “Climate Chaos & Resistance to Ecocide: Talks by Guy McPherson and Deep Green Resistance”

DGR February 2014

Saturday, 22 February 2014, 7:00 p.m., Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Avenue Bellingham, Washington, “Climate Chaos”

Monday, 24 February 2014, 7:00 p.m., Odd Fellows Hall, 112 Haven Road, Eastsound, Washington (on Orcas Island), “Climate Chaos

Wednesday, 26 February 2014, 7:00 p.m., San Juan Island Library, 1010 Guard Street, Friday Harbor, Washington, “Climate Change and Resistance

Thursday, 27 February 2014, 7:00 p.m., King’s Books, 218 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, Washington, reading excerpts and signing Going Dark. Announcement here. (Donation for space and expenses appreciated.)

Friday, 28 February 2014, 7:00 p.m., Traditions Cafe, 300 5th Avenue SW, Olympia, Washington, “How Shall We Act in Light of Climate Chaos?”


Comments 50

  • Thanks for the essay, Carolyn Baker, but I think the legacy of “tribe” and “community” belonging is also what caused this mess. Much easier to go to war with people and take their stuff if “they’re not part of your tribe”. Much more difficult to think, “we’re all human beings, we shouldn’t be fighting each other.”

    Unfortunately social groups have “egos” of their own, not just individuals. It’s not exclusive to industrial civilization; before the white men came along, for example, the Haudenosaunee were basically “the empire” of the Native Americans, hoping to spread The Great Peace through war. The South Americans had their own “empire”, in the form of the Aztecs (in fact, the whites were able to beat the Aztecs in part because the tribes the Aztecs previously demanded tributes from got fed up with it).

    It’s all well and good to promote a sense of “belonging”, but as Eric Holder pointed out in his book about true believers, it is precisely that “belonging” that causes you to be morally irresponsible if your “group” happens to be doing something evil.

    I understand what you were trying to say, but “sacred communities” can have the seeds of evil within them just as “industrial civilization” can. Let’s not “swing the pendulum the other way”, ma’am.

    At least, that’s what I think.

  • “Modernity has little relationship with the deeper, ancient, spiritual symbolism of the heart.”

    Agreed, but it’s more fundamental than just modernity, it’s civilization – and each step humans take in the march of civilization is another step further away from anything good.

    Aldous Huxley:
    Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.
    And, from Timothy Leary:
    Civilization is unbearable, but it is less unbearable at the top.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Librarian – Taking off from your points…Yes, people very often romanticize our ancestors. As Keeley (War before Civilization) and others have shown, they were as violent as us moderns,and were so long before anything close to empires were created. And the ‘participation mystique’ of the tribe transmogrified into the berserk nationalisms we all are familiar with.
    I have Edgerton’s Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony on my shelf yet unread, but it seems to cover the slew of what we describe today as mental illnesses that were also present in more primitive cultures( Still, it seems preposterous to believe they felt as alienated as modern people.)

    Yet they also had access to modes of perception, and even interaction, with their enviroments which are simply unavailable (and usually disbelieved) to most present day homo sapiens. Plus, most crucially, there were a lot less of them, and a good number less SUVs!

    in prev. thread Tom said

    “i’m beginning to wonder whether we could have changed anything even if we’d all gotten on the same page and done whatever it took to mitigate ……
    The Industrial Revolution, all by itself may have been enough forcing to start the loss of habitat due to CO2 and all the other toxic waste we exude living this way (including radiation – which is completely out of control now).”

    If memory serves, this was Catton’s point in his well known book Overshoot- that once the industrial rev got underway, things were inevitably over (due to human nature and the nature of exponential growth). He was discussing simple overpop + resource depletion and made a convincing case from those alone.

  • I wonder how many of the NBL posters and readers have lived a situation of unexpected collapse of local society.
    I have. I lived what I call a “soft collapse”, that gave me a REAL glimpse on how a real full collapse may be.
    And after what I saw and lived, I can be sure that the full collapse will be much terrible than we can imagine, while still living a normal life.
    I keep on getting the impression that they most doomers live a fairy tale of collapse. It seems to me that they see the process as something that will give us time to adapt, and we will have time for compassion and generosity for example. But from what I have seen, collapse of IC will happen in a few days.
    The equilibrium is so delicate, and everything is so interconnected, that a few missing links in the system, bring the whole thing down.
    Being away and living off-grid, will soften the collapse, but I still feel that so far, there is no totally safe way to live collapse.
    Of course, the long term aftermath is another story. And also a situation beyond what we can imagine today, living a “normal” life, even off-grid.

    This movie shows a view of collapse. I guess no matter the cause of collapse, the process will be very much like it is shown.

  • Most of this stems from a theistic and dualistic attitude. Other traditions offer different perspectives.

    a fixed point in a changing universe.

    This is part of the folly. All points in the universe are in a state of flux with the universe in time, space & causation. The awareness that illuminates minds has no such boundaries.

    Such a cellular, deeply-ingrained sense of belonging is not fundamentally cognitive, but rather, heartfelt

    Any sense of belonging involves a dyad. When it is grokked that there is no “other” there is no relationship, no belonging.

    But what is the essence of compassion? Generally, it means “to suffer with” the other.

    With realisation comes the awareness that there is no “other”.

    As we deepen our sense of belonging to the earth, we deepen our compassion, as well as our commitment to taking action.

    There is no belonging when there is no “other”. This is variously known as “only-ness” (kaivalya), regarding all as Self (sarvatman bhava). One of the corollaries to the state of realisation is an absence of the sense of agency or “doer-ship” (akarta bhava). Another is the sense of having checked off every item in life’s “to do” list: a sense of having done all that had to be done (kṛita kṛityata).

    Will an elephant in Africa being murdered for its tusks feel my pain for its tragic demise?

    No. Just as a yellow flower looks separate and different from a red one in the same sunshine, so too different brains and their different minds appear separate and different in the same consciousness.

    Yet, I’m not sure that my pain for the endangered elephant has no effect on it.

    Each one has one’s own karma. The thoughts and feelings of each person will affect that person. Actions that affect another will produce separate results for the actor and the one acted upon.

    we would ultimately experience the magnificent, resplendent, sacred core of our being

    There is no “core of our being”. The “ME being” (not my being) has no core and no rind: to it, there are no “others”.

    deep grieving unleashes the deepest layers of joy

    Such joy is of necessity transient. Each joy is an episode of contentment – an absence of want, albeit a temporary one.

    The realisation that there is no “I”, and that Being is Consciousness, boundary-less, with nothing outside it, reveals a beginning-less and endless substrate of contentment on which the universe rests.

  • @ Robin Datta

    All points in the universe are in a state of flux with the universe in time, space & causation. The awareness that illuminates minds has no such boundaries.

    We know this ? How do we know this ? Who knows this ?

    Presumably, some entity, some function, some thing, entertains this understanding, and conceives these ideas, and types them and sends them to NBL, presumably the ‘thing’ which is labelled as Robin Datta, by itself and others.

    That ‘thing’ is not me, it is other than me, because it was not me who did the typing who has that framework in mind.

    I don’t think that your ‘traditional perspective’ corresponds either with my common every day experience, or, from what I understand of it, with the physics of the Universe, does it ?

    It might correspond with some ‘ultimate truth’ as discovered or revealed, subjectively, view meditation or some other spiritual insight, but are we to take that as a reliable guide ? I think not, because no traditions can agree upon how to interpret such experience.

    All you can really do is make a claim, that the tradition that you prefer, sees things such and such a way, or, the way you see it, your personal experiences indicate that such and such is the case.

    And, as usual, you are unable to speak in language that any ordinary person can understand.

    Of course, in the tradition that you follow, only Brahmins count, the caste system condemns ordinary people as inferior, mere meat robots, so why bother teaching to them when you can bamboozle them.

  • Carolyn,
    a timely essay, centering on the heart, the inner ogan as you say.
    A few thoughts.
    An old St Peter and the pearly gates tale:
    A very good christian man died one day in his mid life. He found himself lined up just before the pearly gates. He could see nothing beyond the gates, but knew what lay there. St peter motioned him come forward, as the one in front was allowed in. St peter acknowledged the man and looked in the ledger. he found the relevant name.
    St peter said,
    ” Ah, it seems you have lived a moral and obedient life, always obeying the ten commandments.”
    The man replied with pride, “Yes St peter, I have.”
    As St Peter rummaged through the ledger, the man grew restless.
    Finally St Peter said, “In that case, show me your wounds”
    The man stood perplexed. “Wounds? But St Peter, I have no wounds”
    St Peter boomed, “You mean you lived to such an old age and you never found anything you felt so passionate about you were willing to be wounded?”
    “Well no” the man replied.
    St Peter replied, closing the ledger, “Then go back and get some. Next!”
    The man awoke in a hospice to see his whole family at his bedside- his wife, children, and grandchildren, and he began to live in a new way.
    I like this story!
    Also on the topic of belonging, and where or how we ‘belong’…
    I remember a section of the Desiderata I found to help me understand where a sense of belonging comes from for me.

    “…You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, and you have a right to be here…”

    Trees and stars, human scale and cosmic….I like it.

    Chiron, the Greek Centaur is attributed in modern Astrology as symbolic of the the true heart wound, and the healing that the said wound necessitates/enables. The ‘wounded Healer is a title I have seen. Chiron is a bridge from Saturn, to the outer planet Uranus. Saturn, the boundary of Egity, and beyond this, Uranus the transcendental ‘mind’ or disruption to linear thinking, and de-conditioning aspects of the Heart. The orbit of the asteriod Chiron, is elliptical and ranges at times inside Saturn’s orbit, and at others outside Uranus’ orbit, and thus is the Bridge to opening up the Heart, or cracking the ‘Shell’ or illusion of separateness that is the ego activity, and the illusion of Saturnian pain, isolation and suffering.
    This Mythology shows how integral the wound of the heart breaking, open, is integral to seeing the ‘world’ as part of oneself, inflected in our own personal life cycles as we encounter it.
    Nobody comes out and says: “OK life, wound me!” But it is part of the human incarnation deal, I guess.

    Thanks for your thoughts and others on this topic.
    On another topic:

    It looks like the MSM is ‘trying to wake itself up’.
    But as is typical, only in response to something happening in North America, and Western Europe.

    ‘Extreme weather heats up climate change debate’

    The usual on either side of the drivel debate, but at least a lot more people are listening…
    but will it lead to hearing?

  • Sorry that should have been…. “Saturn, the boundary of Egoity..”
    But I like Egity, it sounds weird.

  • Grant Schreiber says:

    Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    Collapse, and all it destroys,
    Will happen, whatever your ploys;
    And when things get profound,
    You’ll be hearing the sound
    Of the low spark of high-heeled boys.

  • The heart is an another organ in our body. The whole body working within an environment, i.e., the information contained in the interactions (network), is “the heart” of civilisation (or lack thereof, which isn’t to ascribe a value judgement upon the concept of civilisation and community/society). When people talk about “the heart”, they’re speaking metaphorically, just as you speak metaphorically of “belonging”, or even as some others speak of as “DNA” (which is a type of molecule) being “the heart” of evolution. In the case of the heart, the metaphor really is about what’s going on in the brain (which IMO is “the heart” of the body), the part that controls the physical heart, and the mind (which IMO is “the heart” of the brain, and perhaps “the heart” of what makes us human).

    I once asked a friend of mine who was dating two people at the same “what about your heart?” and he said “the heart has four chambers.” He was being clever but I think the problem you identify in your essay has to do with this sort of confusion. I think selfishness is pretty inherent to humans and I don’t think industrial civilisation explicitly trains us to be less compassionate towards others, but I think whatever society we have (whether industrialised, civilised, both, or neither), compassion is something that requires one to think in a meta-manner (see the big picture, so to speak).

    This is only my view of course. Some of the above statements aren’t yet known and I’m largely speaking metaphorically.

  • Ben: Thumbs up. Damn straight.

  • @Godofredo Aravena writes:

    “Of course, the long term aftermath is another story. And also a situation beyond what we can imagine today, living a “normal” life, even off-grid.”

    After the grocery store shelves have been emptied and the electrical power out for a few months with no hope of restoration methinks most on this BBS will be out roaming the countryside in search of food and exacerbating an already catastrophic situation. Good luck. Being minimally prepared (for whatever) is like having insurance. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

    @ ulvfugl

    You’d be conflicted too if you worked for an organization that makes war instead of love. 8-)


  • @ ogardener

    Yup, but me, I’m a Transcendental Perspectivist, means I get to look at The Mystery from every angle at the same time…

  • “Of course, the long term aftermath is another story. And also a situation beyond what we can imagine today, living a “normal” life, even off-grid.”

    Responding to this just because I was thinking about something related–“a better future.” What would a better future probably be like? Few if any here would be interested in the list, or even imagine it possible. I just include it because of the irony in what “better,” if it were realizable, would mean.

    – No normal weather again (for all practical purposes)
    – No Arctic ice
    – Nuclear plants on a permanent trip wire that doesn’t trip
    – No civilization but for the memory of it and lessons learned therefrom
    – Very few women procreate, and their children are all the world’s children
    – Education by the tribe and/or global village
    – Underground living
    – Permanent hospice
    – Disputes, but no wars–no zombies either
    – And the like…

    That would be a better world, for there would be no more killing of the planet, even as humans learned to do the dead opposite of what they’ve done for 100 plus years: value extreme scarcity and physical challenge while reigning in our destructive proclivities…

  • @ Grant Schreiber: I actually saw Traffic in 1967. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

    In the previous verse, “with” all it destroys, not “and.”

    In a previous thread, Grant Schreiber says:

    Don’t Let It Bring You Down

    Global warming, about which we’re learning,
    Doesn’t have to be all that concerning;
    It’s ineffably sad,
    But you needn’t go mad:
    It’s only our planet burning.

  • Carolyn: excellent! I particularly liked the way you put this

    Modernity has little relationship with the deeper, ancient, spiritual symbolism of the heart. Nor does mass culture connect the high incidence of congestive heart failure with the clogging of emotion, particularly grief, in the body and psyche. Additionally, little attention is paid to the diminished capacity for compassion in cultures fixated on science and technology and how that deficit may be somaticized into “heart failure.”

    Thanks for your thoughts and incite.

    Benjamin td: awesome riffs the last few posts – glad to see you still “got it.”

  • Ben: Glad to oblige.

    I don’t deny the seriousness of NTE
    but I refuse to be constantly glum.

    Only here for such a short time,
    it would be shame not to enjoy it.

  • @Grant, thanks for the respite!

    @ulvfugl, thanks for the grins!

    I still have most of the last thread to catch up with. Where does all the time go?

    Godofredo. I’m going to have to watch the movie you posted before I can start on anything else. Any knowledge that will help us understand what to expect is a good thing, IMO. Countless people around the world have been forced to experience collapse as the super powers utilize the now common practice of destabilizing a society prior to regime change or the outright piracy of their resources. But for us who have benefited all these years from the wanton cannibalism, we don’t know jack about what to expect when THE SHIT HITS THE FAN!

    If the collapse comes on kind of slow it will be easier to maintain some sort of civility. But, if it’s sudden, well, in one day the streets will be full of slow zombies. After three gays it’ll be fast zombies! Don’t let your kids get out of your sight. They could end up in a REAL STEW! LOL!

    I’m getting a few supplies together, More for my loved ones than for me. I have the delusion that post sudden collapse, after the first couple of weeks, maybe some trucks of food will start arriving. Hopium, maybe. But otherwise, the only choice for me may be voluntary starvation so I can leave more food for the kids.

    I agree, Godolfrodo, there may be little time for compassion or generosity toward those outside ones family. For me, that will be the greatest loss of all.

  • Maybe this evaluation should be titled “Fun with CO2”

    Scroll to page 20- “Executive Summary”

  • Not ‘gays’…DAYS. Sheesh!

  • Thanks, Tom. Riffs exactly. I never studied writing, but I’ve done some jamming in my time.


    Does our race deserve to elapse
    For the way we’ve behaved? Perhaps;
    But we’re hard at it still
    So it’s certain we will
    By the time we’re all done with collapse.

  • @Kirk Hamilton

    It’s a good idea to prepare even if it’s just a few weeks worth. Look at what just happened in Atlanta. I suspect we may see many mini collapses like that before the whole thing shuts down. I’m a Canadian who lived in the Atlanta area for 7 years and I can tell everyone it’s not just a lack of winter driving experience that caused the cars to pile up. The freeways there are a trap. Atlanta is the worst sprawl in North America, but similar incidences can happen anywhere.

  • TR

    Thanks for the link. I looked at the Executive Summary. No surprises, huh?

  • Regarding the Executive Summary, what happened to the 40 year lag? Did I miss it?

    Climate change: Unstable Atlantic deep ocean circulation may hasten ‘tipping point’

    Date: February 20, 2014

    Source: University of Bergen


    A new study looking at past climate change asks if these changes in the future will be spasmodic and abrupt rather than a more gradual increase in the temperature. Today, deep waters formed in the northern North Atlantic fill approximately half of the deep ocean globally. In the process, this helps moderate the effects of global warming. Changes in this circulation mode are considered a potential tipping point in future climate change that could have widespread and long-lasting impacts. Until now, this pattern of circulation has been considered relatively stable during warm climate states such as those projected for the end of the century. A new study suggests that Atlantic deep water formation may be much more fragile than previously realized.

    [selected quote]

    No “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario

    A popularised notion is that if the ocean circulation declines it could cause large cooling or, as in the case of the Hollywood movie The Day After Tomorrow, a new ice age. Although some cooling did occur locally south of Greenland when the circulation slowed, there was no evidence for really large cooling associated with these changes. It could be that human beings haven’t been able to find it yet, but equally reasonable is that humankind simply don’t get really big cooling as the ocean slows down because when it is really warm, sea ice cannot form, and this supercharges the cooling effect of ocean circulation changes. In any event, the super cooling or slide into the next ice age as popularised in a Hollywood blockbuster did not occur.

  • Watching the Deniers

    Their stridency starts to reveal
    Nervousness they can’t conceal;
    They say it’s a hoax
    And they try to make jokes,
    But they’ll freak when they find out it’s real.

    Deniers and Doomers

    Understanding of what’s coming through
    Puts each group in a separate queue:
    Those whose minds will all blow
    Because they don’t know,
    And ours, on account of we do.

  • Grant Schreiber says:

    We Will All Go Together When We Go

    (Well, fuck me, it’s already made out of limericks!)

    We’ll all go together when we go,
    But today there’s more options, we know:
    Different horses we’ll ride
    To the other side,
    But we’ll all go together when we go.

    Conquest won’t be our last feat,
    ‘Cause the heat’s something we cannot beat:
    Not just temperature factors,
    But busted reactors—
    Our fate’s set in hard white concrete.

    Famine’s the next thing we’ll greet
    Without foods like wheat and red meat;
    When there’s no more to carve
    From each other, we’ll starve:
    We can’t live with nothing to eat.

    War gives a chance to mistreat
    Each other with horror complete;
    The future looks black,
    And there’s no turning back,
    Though we’re headed for certain defeat.

    Death, from his Lehrer’s come to mow:
    We’re already pale and laid low;
    There’s more ways that I’ve missed,
    But you’re getting the gist—
    We’ll all go together when we go.

  • The hypocrisy of Rex. Put him on that list twice.

    Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Because It Will Devalue His $5 Million Property

  • Ulvfugi,

    I liked what Adi Da had to say. Not due to the birthday thing (which was a minor observation). Your Wiki link shows him to have been quite a problematic fellow. But his life history is not the same thing as his teachings. I made a point, to which his writings made no reference, about emphasizing land over people. If this is something you think is stupid, be good enough to explain why. Please don’t talk about anything else.

  • @ Artleads

    I think it is fairly plain to anyone reading my comments there, that I am referring to your continuing inability to distinguish between magical thinking and science and logic.

    I made no reference at all to watersheds or place and people, but seeing as you mention it I don’t think there is any straight forward formula that resolves that problem, which is basically ‘us’ and ‘ours’ v. ‘them’.

    It’s a power relationship. The guys with the biggest or most guns take what they want, unless somebody stops them.

    The farmers sell the water from the aquifers to the frackers, because that keeps them going for another year or two. The frackers poison the water for all future generations.

    What you going to do ? Make a law ? Whoever has the most money buys the lawmakers.

    The guys with the most money are the criminals, Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Banking, etc. How are you going to stop them ? A revolution ?

    We’re out of time. We’re going to get a bloodbath anyway, sooner or later. That seems certain,because eventually everything will melt down, and people won’t care anymore, but at the moment, there are still plenty of useful idiots who believe the lies, who have a vested interest in keeping the game going.

    If you want people to care for their place, their resources, their shared commons, they have to feel a sense of being ‘us’.

    At the moment, nobody thinks in that way about the sky, the atmosphere, ‘It’s OUR sky up there, how come THEY are allowed to poison it ?’
    People don’t think that way about the ocean. People only care about their own skin and their own job and where their own stuff comes from for the short term. Americans have been trained to be that way.

    The capitalist model deliberately fosters individualism and competition, and in it’s most extreme form, as promoted by American social darwinism, and it’s various hideous ancillary doctrines, drawn from Calvin, Ayn Rand, Hayek, the Nazis, etc, the idea is that only the most brutal and ruthless psychopaths should survive, and everybody else is expendable. They can either die, be slaves, or be replaced by foreign workers or machines.

    The idea is to take that ideology world wide, because it suits the trans-national corporate capitalists, financiers and bankers fine, and they don’t care about anyone or anything else.

    Anybody who tries to oppose neo-liberalism, by saying ‘This is our place and these are our resources’ will be destroyed, unless they can defend themselves by force of arms.

    At the moment, there are very few areas left still defending themselves with any degree of success. You seem to be talking about setting up NEW areas.

  • “At the moment, there are very few areas left still defending themselves with any degree of success. You seem to be talking about setting up NEW areas.”

    No, I’m talking about my own Hippy-ish (“mainstream”) little community. Some pioneers (a small number) have studied and written about our watershed. So a huge amount of knowledge is available. But the knowledge is not applied in a political way. If some extractive industry wants to have a go at the fragile landscape, people will oppose it based on many things–views, dust, history, tourism, property values, water, etc. A few miles over, within the same watershed, similar developments threaten, and respective, closer-by residents oppose those for the same reasons. But nobody is thinking systemically about the entire watershed and the requirement for a holistic policy for how to develop within it. So each group must work like hell on its separate issue, since they see little need to work together (and more economically) re the potential watershed proactive program.

    These are not evil, grasping people. Without them, the situation would be totally hopeless. But they are operating at a level that seems to me less effective than if they were proactive and holistic in regard to the common watershed. The same problem prevails in nearly every community in America.

    And indeed I don’t believe that any proactive planning can prevent militaries from driving through with massive shock and awe and doing as they please. Or that money can’t buy off many, many places. But I assume that if communities are a bit more resilient, networked and self-sufficient, (and the more the STORY is about the LAND)it will create conditions less conducive to military/corporate terrorism.

    This isn’t the full story, but it’s pretty much how I see things, and I do (as I have done for a very long time) what I can to promote the proactive, place-based, land-first, holistic agenda.

    Nowadays when I support a local opposition project, it is with the aim to promote a sense of unity between one opposition project and another. That’s easy for me conceptually, since, as I have suggested, every place on earth faces the same monstrous corporate agenda which isn’t hard to comprehend. If people can only relate to their own backyards currently, that still allows for pushback on the entire system, as long as opportunities to connect various pushbacks are seized.

    I’m not succeeding handsomely, as you might imagine, but I get satisfaction from trying. Anyway, thanks for your response.

    BTW, NEW intentional communities might come in like laboratories where there is a predisposed mindset toward innovation and resistance. MAYBE their connecting with small communities like mine can make both mutually stronger. I don’t know whether or not that has been tried anywhere.

  • Ulvfugi

    Thanks for the summary of the human clusterphuck. The only thing to add is the utter failure of humans to deal with the socio-psychopaths in their midst since the dawn of time.

    Out of every 100 live births I believe there has always been a couple of socio-psychopaths in the mix. It’s a function of civilization, maybe even increasing in number as industrial civilization works it’s perverted magic.

    At the dawn of history, smaller tribal groups could spot, identify , and eliminate socio-psychopaths in their communities with relative ease.

    Somewhere along the line, with the increase in anonymity of the larger scales of civilized societies the psychopaths took over the reins of power.

    Now the global system of finance and governance and militaries are psychopathic to the Core.

    Eliminating individual psychopaths does not work anymore, it just provides more booty for the surviving mafia bosses. It’s all good.

    The very structure of human existence is now infected by a mega metastasized pathology which has no ‘there there’, it has no head you can cutoff and kill, it has multiple heads that grow back as quick as you cut them off, it is a Lernaean Hydra and cannot be killed by anyone but a Hero.

    Humans only have Potemkin card board hollywood ‘heroes’, certainly not any Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    The window in history to deal with psychopaths among us has closed with the advent of systemic socio-psychopathocracy which can only be killed by extinction, not by reason.

  • speaking of Ending songs, this one seems sadly/ironically too optimistic-

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  • With thanks to Carolyn Baker for her contribution, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s courtesy of RE, and it’s here.

  • Artleads
    You wrote:

    “BTW, NEW intentional communities might come in like laboratories where there is a predisposed mindset toward innovation and resistance. MAYBE their connecting with small communities like mine can make both mutually stronger. I don’t know whether or not that has been tried anywhere.”

    My two cents worth….
    This proposition is all we have, but not the ‘grim’ type, the type where people know they can share good human cheer as well as what is needed to survive. Trust is what it will take, and that means real relationships, not ones based on competitive deeds or currencies.
    Just sayin…

  • ghostintraining. Thanks for the tunes!

    This one’s for you.

  • Sorry, frogcounter, let me try again:

  • Roger Ellis

    You come through crystal clear. I have been suggesting that we take the story as much as possible away the human sphere and transfer it to the land sphere. The land, all together, forms its own benign system. I’ve never understood why we remain so fixated on people.

  • @ Artleads

    As always, you appear to be utterly and hopelessly confused.

    Every essay that gets posted, you’ll agree with, even when they come from totally opposing positions. Everyday you come up with another nonsensical statement that contradicts what you said the day before.

    You can’t support Marvin Harris, and Christian Fundamentalism, and polytheism, and now ‘not understand why we remain so fixated on people’, without betraying three of these positions. You’ve actually expressed loyalty to several others.

    That’s just ONE problem you have. You have no idea at all WHAT you believe or WHAT you stand for, or what you want. Or why you are here, for that matter.

    You just wrote ‘How can we save the other species, when we can’t save ourselves ?’

    The other species don’t NEED us. That’s just part of the ridiculous self-aggrandizment that humans have given themselves, that they think they are important. The other species were all doing FINE before we ever appeared, as was the whole planet, for 4 billion years, without any help from humans. WE are the ones that are screwing everything up.

    As Martin pointed out, do you think the bacteria and the dinoflagellates need us to save them ?

    Now you write The land, all together, forms its own benign system.

    Wtf ? You have no idea what you are talking about. Which land ? What sort of system ? Benign for whom or what ?

    This is why you infuriate me. You come up with total idiotic bullshit, over and over again, and make absolutist authoritative statements, which show that you are illiterate and know nothing, and you expect to get away with it ? Spreading rubbish and nonsense.

    You say that you are a contrarian voice here, that you don’t accept NTE, that you agree with RE.

    Well, yes, it’s EASY to be contrarian, isn’t it, if you know nothing whatsoever, and understand nothing whatsoever. You’re free to be completely irresponsible, because you are not restricted in any way by facts or truth or reality. Just make up bullshit, and hope nobody catches you out.

    All that stuff about your local community. Sure, you can try to take care of what you have. You’ll get along fine, so long as it has no value and nobody else wants it. But even if it’s a completely empty wasteland without any minerals or water or good soil, sooner or later, some government or corporation will think it’s a good place to dump toxic industrial trash or nuclear waste or build a military firing range or whatever else they want to do. And then what ?

    They don’t need the army to move you. The law says they can do whatever they want. If it doesn’t they change the laws, so it does. If you resist, you get arrested or fined and lose your property.

  • @ Roger Ellis


    I think we are already in WW3. People just have not yet grasped the idea because there was no official announcement, and unless they are told by the MSM they are mostly too dumbed down to use their own judgement.

    When I was on Dark Mountain, there were people there who thought the collapse might come in 2050 or 2100, and the one particular idiot was proposing reform of the House of Lords as the best way forward, which he thought might be possible by about 2050.

    I said I thought we were in a period much like the start of the last century, when there was a really nice happy time, for about a decade.
    Then came WW1.

    I think that’s about where we are at now.

    This was quite interesting about the Deep State.

    Funny how the guy doesn’t want to give the ideology a name. he could have said fascism, but in a way he’s correct, because we have never seen anything quite like this, it’s a variant, it does need a new word.
    People call it corporatocracy, kleptocracy, oligarchy, neoliberalism, etc, but none of those do it justice.

  • @ Artleads

    So ? They are looking after their patch.

    Dividing the land base into watersheds has been an element of ecological thinking going back 50 years, it’s been in FoE literature, Permaculture literature, EF! literature, and now its in DGR literature.

    You still have no idea what you are talking about. Land is not a system is it. There is not just one kind or type land.

    Until you come up with a thought-out basic position, as to what you want, what you’re trying to do, you’ll never be able to argue a coherent case.

  • “You still have no idea what you are talking about. Land is not a system is it. There is not just one kind or type land.”

    Before there was civilization, one type of land merged with a different type of land in a gradual way (or whatever way it did). Nature knows how to do that. Nature can do that without us. I don’t have to know what I’m talking about.

    “Until you come up with a thought-out basic position, as to what you want, what you’re trying to do, you’ll never be able to argue a coherent case.”

    Coherent case for what? Nature knows what it’s doing better than I do.

    I’m talking about people in my community pushing back (bless them) against several destructive developments within a larger coherent land area. These people’s efforts are the most commendable thing of all. If I can help, like adding one more set of hands to those pushing a car, I’ll try to do my bit. What do I want to do that might help?

    Since this is a area with many well educated and conscientious people, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I can instead look for some little gap that I can fill (equating to MY pushing of the car). So I see that a few of these people have done great work, such as surveys, analyses, visionary plans, etc. As good as they are, they still are only early in the process. Much more needs to be done. They need more public support. Maybe if I can bring slightly more attention to them and the need to pursue and connect them it will amount to a net plus. Maybe not, but it’s worth a try.

    What I want is for community people to support the above-mentioned visionary/commonsense proposals. They have some sway since they vote for the people who can get in the way or instead get out of the way.

    There are far more worthy people and worthy efforts out there than I might have thought in the past, or than I can match. If/as I learn about them, I’ll talk about them from the perspective of combining them. *I* don’t propose to combine them. I only try to help.

    It’s good that you’re interested in so many things. I’m not seeing too many others here with opinions on the subject, however. You have made it clear how YOU feel about the subject, and I don’t see what more we have to say to each other.

  • @ Artleads

    Before there was civilization, one type of land merged with a different type of land in a gradual way (or whatever way it did). Nature knows how to do that. Nature can do that without us. I don’t have to know what I’m talking about.

    There you go with the bullshit again.

    You just said ‘land was a benign system’, etc. You just made statements declaring this and that about land.

    Now you’re saying you don’t need to know anything about land, because nature can take care of itself.

    Okay, without any people, nature will be fine. Clear all the people out.

    But the next paragraph you’re going to be helping the people ‘like pushing a car’. To do what ?

    Ah, yes, visionary/commonsense proposals.

    But how will YOU know whether they are visionary or commonsense or counter-productive or totally destructive ?

    Because you’re in no position to judge, are you.

    Because YOU don’t have to know what you’re talking about.

    That’s what I mean. You just agree with anybody and everybody.

    So if somebody says it’s a good idea to plant the land with GMOs you’ll agree with that.

    And if somebody else says it’s a good idea to sabotage the GMOs, you’ll agree with that too.

    Because you have no basic thought-out position of your own.

    Do you see what I’m saying now ?

    You have no insight or understanding. You don’t know what this blog is about. You try to cover yourself by bullshitting, by thanking people, by blather and so on. But it doesn’t work.

    You try to give the impression that you are one very wise fellow by saying ‘I’ve always said this, blahblah’. But you have not. A few days, weeks, ago, you said the precise opposite.

    Do you see what I’m saying ?

    Until you have a thought-out position, and know where you stand, and what you want, and what you’re fighting for, you’ll always be inconsistent, incoherent and contradicting yourself.

    There’s nothing wrong with starting from a watershed and fighting for your land base, as a fundamental position. It’s better than many other positions, like e.g. saying ‘fuck everybody else, I’m just fighting for me’.

    But It’s not the LAND that matters, is it, it’s the ecology, the stuff that lives ON that patch of the planet’s surface, the ecosystems.

    That’s what you have to care for and protect.

    And I suppose, you can just help the people who are living there already, in the sense of ‘pushing their car’.

    If you are an outsider, and not already one of them, it’ll probably be the only way they’ll tolerate your presence.

    But how will you know if what they are doing is good or bad or whatever, if you are clueless ?

    That’s the problem.

    Because in one watershed, they’ll be saying ‘We want to cut down all these trees so we can get cash to build houses and stuff’.

    And you’ll be saying ‘Never cut a tree’, and they’ll shoot you.

    And in the next watershed they’ll be saying something different.

    You’ll have no idea what to say. Just like here.

    The trouble is, looking after your watershed, locally, does nothing about radioactive fallout that’s coming from thousands of miles away, or a wrecked climate that changes all your vegetation, or an adjacent ocean that’s being killed by acidification.

    So, even if you get your own local community working and taking care of your own local patch, you’re still fucked unless you can find some way of looking at the larger global picture and having some influence and say in what larger global players are doing.

    Before you could do that, even if it was in any way possible, you’d have to understand something about it. Which you don’t.

    See what I’m saying ?

    So, at the moment, not only do you have thr problem that you don’t know whether local people are into good or bad stuff, you don’t know whether the global stuff is good or bad either.

    You think it doesn’t matter, that your intuition will just guide you and everything will be okay and you can hide behind bullshit.

    I’m telling you, that doesn’t work. You’re being irresponsible.

    You got to decide where you stand. You got to decide what’s most important to you, what you’re willing to die for.