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2015 in review

‘Repetition produces a gradual lowering of vivid appreciation. Convention dominates. A learned orthodoxy suppresses adventure.’ [1]Without adventure civilization is in full decay. … in their day the great achievements of the past were the adventures of the past. Only the adventurous can understand the greatness of the past.

At the start of 2015 I was writing an article on Alan Watts, and hence shared a “Wattsian Message” for the new year. As 2016 begins my focus has turned to Alfred North Whitehead, the original inspiration for the title of this blog. In his book Adventures of Ideas, Whitehead wrote a civilized society is one that exhibits the five qualities of Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art and Peace.

Whitehead was a process philosopher who had significant influence on Watts among many other thinkers, and whose work is central to my PhD thesis. His influence has not been nearly wide enough, and his comprehensive alternative scheme to the dominant mechanistic worldview is far to little known and taught. I join a group of many others who are trying to address this imbalance… and I will try to share some of this in 2016.

Anyway to recap here’s a list of my far-too-few entries of 2015:

A Wattsian Message of Happiness for 2015

3 Jan ’15

In 1940, as the Second World War began its violence, a 25-year old Alan Watts published a book called The Meaning of Happiness. Its subtitle was the quest for freedom of the spirit in modern psychology and the wisdom of the East. This book shares the same essential message of  countless books, articles and lectures that followed: you are not only what is inside your “bag of skin”, you are what is outside of it too. To kick off the new year, let me explain what this means and how it relates to Read more […]

Retreat from the city: Watts’ mountain cabins and old ferry-boats

5 Jan ’15

My partner, a sculptural artist, and I, with my love of writing, have been thinking about ways we might create some sort of retreat from the city. As I read Alan Watts’ biographies I have been curiously uncovering his two most unusual abodes: a communal mountain retreat with Gary Snyder, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Elsa Gidlow and others at Druid Heights, and an old ferry-boat named SS Vallejo with artist Jean Varda and other party-goers in San Fransisco Bay. Druid Heights, Mount Tamalpais “What Read more […]

Commemorating 100 years of Alan Watts

6 Jan ’15

Today marks the 100-year birthday of Alan Watts. While Watts’ “came out of this world” on 6 January 1915, and “returned to the world” in 1973 (far too young, at 58 years old), his legacy continues and expands in influence and appreciation. Alan Watts was a polymath of spirituality, religions, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, phenomenological, among his many disciplines. Though he tried to prevent labels, he was an expert in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, had a stint as an Episcopal clergyman, and Read more […]

Slave to society

4 Feb ’15

Society draws us into its world of the trivial, making us slaves to the superficial, the menial, its time-wasting ego-based self-absorbed naval-gazing meaninglessness. It is evermore relentlessness with its inescapable myriad of communication paths that bath you in guilt. “I haven’t replied to this.” “I haven’t called that person back.” “I have to do this.” “I must remember that.” The voices in my head remind me that I could spend my whole life, day in day out, responding to this and that. It Read more […]

Taming the beast: technology, corporatism and our shared future

6 Feb ’15

Have we reached a point in the processes of industrialisation, globalisation, and corporatisation in which we have lost control over our culture, our lives and our shared future? Looking at my life, the lives of those around me, the media and global politics and economics, I think we have. It seems to me that technology controls us, rather than us controlling it. Corporations control us, rather than us controlling it. Laws control us, rather than us controlling them. We have become slaves Read more […]

Reframing your mind: changing negative to positive one micro story at a time

7 Feb ’15

“Whatever you want to succeed at, you need to replace any negative scripts you might have with positive ones” (Ash and Gerrand 2002: 7). We need to reframe our minds, changing negative stories to positive stories, one micro story at a time. Eve Ash and Rob Gerrand’s (2002) Rewrite your life! is a book full of tips on how to reframe the micro stories in your mind from negative to positive affirmations, that empower you to be work hard (rather than procrastinate), be confident (rather than full Read more […]

I’ve gone organic, and this is why…

9 Apr ’15

I’ve gone organic, well, where an easy enough choice is available for not a completely unaffordable price. I’m trying to go to the Marrickville farmers markets on Sundays, to buy a box of ethical vegies, fruits, meats, and other products and support more local farmers and small business. Why? It is a stretch to say that buying locally grown organic food can save the world, but from what I can tell it is an important part of moving toward a sustainable society. It saves CO2 emissions involved in Read more […]

Farming practices as a national security threat

9 May ’15

Earlier this year I had the great privilege and honour of having lunch with quantum physicist turned environmental activist and feminist Dr Vandana Shiva. Dr Shiva won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010, and was returning to Sydney as part of an Australian-New Zealand tour warning about the long-term consequences of globalised farming methods. I attempted to get an article published about some of the things that I learned. After many drafts, three submissions and one rejection (the other two never Read more […]

Havana: Aesthetics of an old city in changing Communist Cuba

26 Aug ’15

My partner and I recently spent a week in Cuba in June, mostly in the apocalyptic-like old city of Havana. My research supervisor asked if we speak at a “soiree” at his house, and in preparation I gathered some of my thoughts here. While I reveled in the history and politics, my partner is an artist and conversationalist, leading him to engage with the multi-layered city in a different way than I did. Two of the most striking aspects of Havana are photographic wall murals in the making… First Read more […]

“Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”

18 Sep ’15

After two years of anticipation, in June this year I attended a conference called “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”, which brought together many of my favourite scholars. I was like a teenager anticipating a music festival with all their favourite bands. Such a geek! Around 2000 people attended the conference from around the world, splitting into 12 sections and 82 groups to workshop different ideas, uncover deeper understandings of the causes of the ecological crisis, Read more […]

 

I hope 2016 brings many wonderful adventures, new understandings of life, beauty, great expressions of art, and a deep feeling of peace, for you all.

Whitehead-224x300Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947


[1] Whitehead, Alfred North (1964). Adventures of Ideas. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 276 and 278.

 

“Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”

After two years of anticipation, in June this year I attended a conference called “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization”, which brought together many of my favourite scholars. I was like a teenager anticipating a music festival with all their favourite bands. Such a geek!

Around 2000 people attended the conference from around the world, splitting into 12 sections and 82 groups to workshop different ideas, uncover deeper understandings of the causes of the ecological crisis, and apply their findings to evolve worldviews and world-systems toward ecological civilization.

The conference began from a common point of recognition: that humanity is deeply alienated from nature, and that this alienation underpins humanity’s impact on Earth’s ecosystems. This has brought about a global ecological crisis with symptoms including climate change, vast and fast extinction of species, loss of top soil, and so on. There seemed to be a common acceptance that a large part of the problem is greed, interest groups and multi-national corporations. At root of these factors are assumptions about the world that have caused a sense of alienation from it.

How did the alienation arise? How is it linked to our beliefs about ourselves and about the world? How can the power shift from the hands of the 1% to the majority, and how can people and the planet be prioritised over monetary profit?

The conference critiqued the deep underlying assumptions at root of most western understandings of the world  (categorised as “substance metaphysics“), and envisioned what an alternative world-system would look like based on alternative assumptions (categorised as “process metaphysics“). This sounds abstract. More simply put, it is a shift from seeing the world as made of independent things that operate like balls on a billiard table; to seeing the world as a web of interdependent processes.

For example, rather than seeing yourself as an individual who is separate from your parents, your upbringing, your education, the social structures and economic factors that influenced who you are today; you come to see your self-in-context and as an ongoing process—understanding that these relationships and influences have shaped certain aspects of your life and within these structure you have had choice (and still have choice) to shape other aspects of your life (including, in time, changing these structures).

In the conference program, John Cobb Jr provided an introduction to set the scene for the discussions. This is a bit of a summary of what the conference was about, based on my notes from the talks I attended (largely using the speakers’ words) and Cobb’s introductions (references are the pages in the program).

The metaphor and community of Pando Populus

The conference symbol “Pando” stands as a metaphor for understanding its key message.“Pando” is the ‘largest and oldest organism on Earth, a quaking aspen that extends over 100 acres in southern Utar’ . It is estimated to be between 12,000 and 80,000 years old. It looks like thousands of individual trees, yet these share a single root system—‘It is one tree’! (8)

By J Zapell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is not many trees, it is connected with one root system—it is Earth’s oldest single organism!

Pando Populus has been set up as a forum, which includes YouTube videos of keynotes, summaries of the sessions below, and other resources for being part of this community. It goes beyond finding ‘isolated fixes’ instead aiming to ‘challenge basic assumptions of the modern industrial world and propose ecological alternatives. It asks questions like:

  • ‘What would business and finance look like if the aim of creating a thriving ecosphere becomes the goal of the economy? 
  • What would religion be like if it were to focus on world loyalty as opposed to sectarian or national loyalty or world escape?
  • How would the university be reshaped if it accepted responsibility for the future of the Earth rather than attempt to be value-free?’

These are the types of questions that were addressed at the conference. It is an ongoing discussion, there are no fixed answers but the process of seeking them, of envisioning a new way of being in the world, is the answer. And here is a snapshot of this contribution to that process:

Selection of notes on Keynotes:

Bill McKibben wrote the first book on climate change 26 years ago, and is now the leader of the 350.org movement who are campaign for divestment of fossil fuels and investment in green energy, in order to reduce the carbon in our atmosphere back to 350 parts per million (ppm). We are now at 400 ppm and adding about 2 ppm into the atmosphere per year. What can you do? Campaign for divestment: call government representatives, corporations, universities, etc. ask them to divest from fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry needs to be replaced with a green energy industry.

John Cobb Jr is a (if not the) leading process thinker alive today. Cobb criticised “TINA”  thinking that “There Is No Alternative”. One can campaign for an isolated issue, but in the end it might not make so much difference e.g. saving the whales (now threatened by their food supply due to acidification and overfishing), the black civil rights movement (now look at it), feminist success (now women are hired as workers like everyone else), voting (now congress need to please financial supporters). He posited that we need fundamental change, we need to address issues by addressing the roots of the issues.

Cobb said that as long as we see the world as a machine, attempting to see it “objectively”, we are not going to treat it as being valuable. We need to overcome the 17th century thinking that nature is a machine, and the misplaced extension via Darwinian thought that thinks humans are machines as well. Instead we need to see, as Henri Bergson, William James and Alfred North Whitehead did, that humans are a part of nature, and both humanity and nature are fully-alive.

Whitehead’s philosophy of organism is the most comprehensive replacement of mechanistic thinking, providing a process-based metaphysical system on which this ecological thinking is based. ‘We do not need to recreate the wheel – it is there, but we still need to question and build and solve issues arising using this alternative mode of thought.’

Mary Tucker Evans was taught by Thomas Berry and runs The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. Evan’s promotes ecological civilization through a new worldview and new ethics, via religious traditions entering an ecological phase. One way of encouraging this shift is through what Berry called “the New Story” – a macro telling of history that can be found in Journey of the Universe and Journey of the Universe Conversations with Brian Swimme. This story is also being told in Big History, that David Christian developed a curriculum for and thanks to Bill Gates’ support is spreading through schools and universities across the world. Evans was involved in drafting The Earth Charter, which promotes ‘ecology, justice and peace’.

Dr Sheri Liao is a leading environmental activist in China, who discussed the Global Village of Beijing project, and some of the ways in which process thought is having a positive impact in encouraging ecological development in China.

Herman Daly is an ecological economist who points out that the problem is our commitment to growth. His thought is associated with the steady-state economy of John Stuart Mill, promoting a stabilization of population and slow down the economic metabolism so to prevent resource depletion. Instead of development through quantitative growth, we should develop through qualitative growth. We feel as if we are isolated individuals yet we are people-in-community. Daly suggested the “Genuine Progress Indicator” replacing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in order to prevent horrible costs such as oil spills being registered as having a positive economic impact.

Daly also linked getting off the growth path to helping avoid war, which is so often due to unequal economic growth and fighting over resources. We need a paradigm shift away from self interest. If we really are self-interested we should try to be better off rather than having more. The economy and even money has been created from the human imagination, and we can evolve it in new directions if we can imagine it!

Vandana Shiva spoke with compassion for all of Earth’s community, not just the ‘mafia economy of the 1%’. Shiva is a quantum physicist and ecofeminist who promotes a new  worldview and sustainable agriculture. She discussed biopiracy, the use of pesticides and chemicals on food, the way that corporations are stealing democracy from us, the tendency for extraction and exploitation, ways that the Green Revolution violated every law of nature, that 80 men control 50% of the world’s wealth, and the need to place emphasis on process + relationships. I had lunch with this 2010 Sydney Peace Prize recipient earlier in the year, so in the interests of space I’ll let that post tell more than I can here.

Phillip Clayton, whose books on panentheism and “organic marxism” have had a great influence on me, emphasised the need to ‘free ourselves form the modern dichotomy of objectivity and subjectivity’, and for science to apply a ‘plurality of methods’. We need to move to a paradigm that sees that ‘nature is alive‘, recognising that we are a ‘community of agents’, and are obliged to see others’ as agents as well.

David Ray Griffin is a leading thinker in process thought and panentheism, and is the leader in bringing process thought (or ‘constructive postmodernism’) to China. His influence is global and inspirational. Griffin’s keynote address was the closing of the conference.  He explained the ways that Whitehead solves a number of contradictions, between different religions, and between religion and science. Griffin posited time as nonemergent, as something that ‘goes all the way down’. We live within a succession of universes inherited from previous universes. Emphasised the need to show scientists and philosophers that theism can exist without supernaturalism.

Griffin also pointed out that there are now universities in Europe where students can study and specialise in Whitehead. I reckon it’s about time we get one in Australia as well… As Cobb summed, ‘we need to point out that people have a metaphysic and what a stupid metaphysic they have. It’s time for a new one.’

Section 1 – The Threatening Catastrophe: Responding Now

We face the possibility of an irreversible end of civilization and even of the human species. Today the most urgent threat is climate change. … Avoiding nuclear war and developing alternatives to war in general have immediate urgency. … Increased population and decreasing resources point toward disastrous shortages.’ Combined with ‘many of the efforts to increase production speed climate change.’ The shortage of resources is also a ‘factor in current wars’. Furthermore, ‘financial disasters’ are a constant threat as ‘we have developed an economy so dependent on global financial institutions,’ which means ‘the whole system of producing and exchanging goods is threatened. … Democracies are becoming “corpocracies.” Financial institutions manipulate both government and public opinion.’(12)

‘The likelihood, nature, and scale of the disasters brought about by modern civilization make it imperative that in envisioning the future we consider the fundamental assumptions that have driven the modern world to self-destruction. We have no alternative but to think civilization anew, this time in an ecological framework. “Seizing an Alternative” as a while focuses on laying the groundwork for building a different civilization on different fundamental assumptions.’ (12)

Section 2 – An Alternative Vision: Whitehead’s Philosophy

‘Each of us acts against a backdrop of basic assumptions about the world that have us living out the results of philosophy whether or not we think about them, or participate in criticizing or shaping them. … the value of philosophy is the kind of broad, “critique of abstractions” that Alfred North Whitehead named, and the wisdom-seeking we all have to engage.’ (16) We need to ask: what is “common sense”, what is our purpose and what are aiming for?

‘Whitehead is the focus of the “Seizing an Alternative” conference because few recent philosophers were as interested as he in this broad understanding of philosophy – that is, big ideas that really make a difference in the world. Further, no other philosopher in the past century has so rigorously and systematically challenged assumptions of the modern world and proposed fundamentally ecological alternatives. … Whitehead called his magnum opus, Process and Reality, an essay in cosmology. Cosmology, in his understanding, offers a comprehensive view of the totality of things, including both the world studied by the natural sciences and the world of human experience and activity. … Whitehead’s cosmology opens the door to discuss many topics that are neglected in most contemporary thought. … Whitehead’s cosmology offers hope that matters of spirit can be integrated in an attractive way with science in a single coherent vision. This rethinking of ethics and religion is essential if we are to create a fully integrated and well-rounded ecological civilization.’ (16)

‘A fundamental feature of the dominant forms of modern philosophy is treating each entity as if its essential being is self-contained. The only relations affirmed are “external relations,” that is, relations that do not fundamentally affect the entities that are related. … Ecological thinking, on the other hand, views the relations among things as essential to their being. These are “internal relations.” Whitehead calls them ‘prehesions,” and he shows how they fundamentally constitute all actual entities. [Whitehead] is in the fullest sense “the philosopher of ecological civilization.” Helping other philosophers to understand his unique contribution is an important step in breaking the habits of thought that have led modernity to self-destruction.’ (17)

Section 3 – Alienation from Nature: How it Arose

Why do human beings think that we are separate from and more important than nature? This ‘sense of separateness … seems to have developed with agriculture and the building of cities. … Civilization led to almost complete alienation decisively through the European Enlightenment of the seventeen century and its produces: modern technology and the industrial revolution. … Rene Descartes, who developed the Enlightenment vision most profoundly and influentially, is known especially for his radical dualism of the human soul, on one side, and mere matter in motion on the other.’ Positive effects of this include the ‘critical thought’ that led to ideas about the ‘dignity’ of ‘human beings’ which ‘supported the ideas of human rights and even of a fundamental equality of all human beings.’ In the 19th century: ‘Darwin showed that human beings are a product of biological evolution, so that they are fully part of nature. This opened the door to re-thinking nature as having some of the properties Descartes attributed only to the human soul.’ A Whitehead’s philosophy is a response to ‘the new understanding of how human beings came into being.’ Cobb warns that ‘we are working against the now dominant vision of our universities and our culture general. The commitment of the sciences to methods associated with nature’s purely objective existence (without a subjectivity of its own) was very strong.’ Humans are studied as objects, ‘as very complex machines’. ‘Where Descartes had objectified nature, post-Darwin human beings became objectified too.’ According to Cobbs, while the scientific method can be fruitful, it need not shape our view of reality. (20)

‘Enlightenment dualism was replaced in late modernity by reductionist monism. The Enlightenment led people to understand themselves as responsible citizens. The new reductionistic monism supported the industrial system that represents us as cogs in the wheel of the economic system. … It’s the difference, as Alfred North Whitehead put it, between “nature lifeless” and “nature alive.” If we deeply understand nature as a whole to be alive as much as we experience ourselves as alive, we will richly experience our kinship with other living things, especially other animals. Perhaps, then, we can begin the healing process.’ (21)

Section 4 – Re-envisioning Nature; Re-envisioning Science

The ‘Cartisian view of nature was materialistic and reductionistic’, it has fostered a ‘deep alienation’ from the ‘natural world’. ‘Descartes’ dualistic metaphysics by no means initiated this sense of human beings as distinct from nature and above it, but his formulations have played a particularly important role in the world of science and technology. They have shaped our educational institutions and most of our academic disciplines into disjointed categories and disciplines. They have sometimes further contributed to alienation by asking us to reject common sense in our view of what is real.’

However, ‘recent discoveries of science have led to new and more adequate views of nature … quantum theory, evolutionary biology, ecology and neuroscience.’ Cobb points out that ‘the new understanding of the natural world still struggles to displace the Cartesian one that has dominated scientific thought for centuries. … The scientific establishment tends to treat the new discoveries as ‘anomalies,” and largely ignores their implications for basic assumptions.’ Slow changes are taking place in the academy, while outside and with some help from within, ‘a whole new vision of the natural world is emerging that opens up ways of thinking about the world as being more than simply collections of moving matter.’ Based on evolutionary understandings, but not mechanistically reducing nature to ‘matter in motion’ à also shows ‘that novel realities are coming into being again and again. … The sciences that are adequate to understanding the emergence of life and directed action in the world are important, therefore, for more than just getting our facts straight; they help us to know what it means to inhabit this planet. They prompt us to tell the scientific story in ways that are intrinsic to the natural world and our deepest experiences within it, while still allowing for the rigorous scientific study of nature. They represent a shift in understanding important for creating scientific conditions necessary for a thriving ecosystem.’ (24)

Section 5 – Ecological Civilization

‘Without a vision of where we need to go, our efforts are not likely to have the needed motivation or coherence.’

The alienation is not intrinsic to humanity, it is cultural, it is reflective of ‘erroneous thinking about the natural environment’. Is an ecological civilization possible? If so, what would it be like?

‘Any image of a sustainable world must consider its carrying capacity’ including consumption, number of people, other species, etc. ‘A truly ecological civilization is one in which human beings understand themselves as one species among others. It is concerned both with every individual creature with which we share the planet, and with the ecosystem as a whole. It will give a great deal of attention to what we eat and how we produce it. And at every step it will consider how that which contributes to sustainability can also contribute to personal enjoyment and social well being.’ (28)

Section 6 – Reimagining and Reinventing the Wisdom Traditions (A)

Axial Ways – term coming from Karl Jaspers “Axis” of human history – Greek philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism and Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zorastrianism. ‘The world religions are often viewed as having failed in their relations to culture, to one another, to science, and to the natural world. Although there is much justification for this criticism, the actual situation is far more complex, and in all these respects there have been dramatic changes for the better. Especially because the secular world offers no better option, we urgently need the further development and transformation of the great wisdom traditions if we are to build an ecological civilization. They should be re-imagined and re-invented – not discarded.’ Cobb emphasizes the “world loyalty” (using Whitehead’s term) found within the traditions, rather than ‘sectarianism, nationalism, or escapism.’ (32)

Section 7 – Reimagining and Reinventing the Wisdom Traditions (B)

The Hebrew prophets tended to focus on outer life and justice, while in Asia a key focus was ‘the systematic and articulate description of the inner life, together with the idea that we can choose to shape it.’ Cobb points out that ‘internal life’ affects ‘outer life’. … ‘what today most people mean by “spirituality” is the ordering and enriching of the interior life to which India and China contributed so much.’  Cobb warns that too much focus on inner life can lead to a lack of focus on outer life. ‘We need their re-development in the context of our new awareness of what we are doing to our environment.” While Greek philosophy is not usually thought of as spiritual, Cobb points out that ‘many of the Greek philosophers were quite concerned to guide the shaping of the inner life.’ He links this to Neo-Platonism which he believes ‘can readily be understood as a spiritual movement’ He also links this to ‘Indigenous people who have eschewed “civilization” and maintain traditions continuous with practices and attitudes developed long before the rise of civilization.’ (38)

Section 8 – Reimagining and Reinventing Education

Our existence is more than a succession of bare facts” Whitehead

Education is not only done at schools, it is also conducted in homes. Historically the latter has been dominant, yet today in the ‘modern secular world’ most education is ‘controlled by the state’ … ‘There has been too little reflection on this situation. Historically, education has been at least as much about values as about facts and skills. To live without conscious values is to fall short of being human. Schooling inevitably communicates values, and by failing to encourage reflection about them, it fails to make them conscious or effective. This reflects the situation of the modern secular state, which is in general unclear about its values.’ Taking the US as an example Cobb explains how since WW2 the ‘values of modern Protestant Christianity’ have influenced American people including their encouragement ‘to accept authority without much questioning a’ and considering “values” and “religious beliefs” to be ‘a private matter’ not for the classroom. ‘Higher education celebrates itself as “value-free.” … The topic on which research is done and the use of its product are matters of indifference. The university serves whoever will pay for the research. The students are attracted to the university on the grounds that they will earn more by completing a university program. In short, the default value, when the values of the Axial traditions are set aside, is money. This is not the outcome that those who opposed Protestant hegemony had in mind. It is diametrically opposed to ecological civilization. For those who want to steer our nation and others away from the precipice toward which the world is heading, reconsideration of our schooling system much be a very high priority. What would happen if we collectively decided that instead of freeing education from all values except money, we directed education toward building an ecological civilization?’ (42)

Section 9 – Reimagining and Reinventing Bodily-Spiritual Health

Cobb states that ‘ecological civilization would end the reign of Descartes and put body, mind and spirit back together again’ bringing about a ‘wholeness of body, mind, and spirit’. ‘Westerners have learned from India and China that breathing and bodily movements contribute to spiritual realization. From many sources we know that psycho-spiritual problems express themselves also physically.’ There is a growing ‘awareness of dimensions of reality not accessed by the sense organs’. Cobb states that ‘’I judge that the most promising single movement today working for ecological civilization is eco-feminism.’ (46)

Section 10 – Reimagining and Reinventing Societies and Social Thought

‘A basic assumption of modern thought is that everything can be reduced to its parts, the whole being nothing more than their sum.’ This view has ‘no primary place for ecological relations.’ Cobb emphasises that in the dominant view ‘Relationships are always derivative of individual units, and lack status as being fundamentally important to the nature of things.’ We need personal development (as in positive psychology and nurturing of values), community development,  social and political development, education and cultural development, and the development of healthy environment/ecosystems. It is common to emphasise the personal and community without looking at the implications for the world at large including social, political and ecological implications of personal action.

‘Although the quality of personal life is important, and much can be gained by focusing attention on it, all such achievements depend on social and ecological conditions.’ It is important to consider ‘many features of social order […] quite separately from the issues of full realizaiton of the potential of individuals.’ Cobb points to the ‘reciprocal relation’ between individuals and society, with the society impacting on the virtues of individuals and these virtues of individuals impacting back on society. In academic jargon this is to say that it is not structure OR agency, but agents-within-structures. ‘An ecological civilization would define human society as persons in community. This discourages both the view that society is simply a collection of individuals and the reduction of the importance of individuals in favour of the society as a whole. Individuals become full persons only in the context of community, and societies become authentic communities only as the people who make them up become strong persons.’ This can impact conversations and developments in academic, corporations and beyond. (50)

Section 11 – Reimagining and Reinventing Culture

‘Every human society has its own culture. This is true of families … distinctive cultures in each school and church and civic organization. If one joins a new society, one sense what is expected and adopts it, or one never really belongs.’ Cobb considers “meaning” to be constructed through “references”. ‘Languages organize life and environment in different ways, so that the translation among them is never perfect. … meanings go far beyond that. They refer to emotions, moods, purposes, memories, hopes, and fears. They refer to aspirations and dreads, the sacred and the demonic, the requisite and the forbidden. They shape both thought and action and, more deeply, feeling and purpose. … the study of culture is from the beginning immersed in history. One cannot study a nation’s culture apart from the stories it tells itself about its past and its aspirations for the future.’ Same with families and other institutions, especially with ‘Abrahamic communities.’ Cobb states: ‘We urgently need stories that locate us all in one history and that history in its total natural environment. … We have become aware that our stories have been told by those who have power and we are trying to hear the other stories.’

‘Typically, a few control and exploit others to produce cultural goods, and the exploited laborers have little freedom or dignity. On the other hand, from time to time, at least in some cultures, work has been respected and laborers are full members of the society. No culture can claim to be ecological that does not reward and respect those whose labor enables it to flourish.’ Food is important to culture ‘What is eaten, and how it is produced distributed and eaten,’ as is ‘how we build homes and cities’. Furthermore, ‘The realization of mortality shapes reflection on meaning. An ecological civilization will affirm death as well as life. … Cultures differ in the degree to which they encourage, or even allow, criticism. … Ecological civilization requires drastic criticism of current activities but will always call for self-criticism as well.’ This section also emphasized the need for art and pop culture to reflect ecological civilization and positive social change in music, movies, tv, sport, etc. (54)

Section 12 – Transformative power of Art

‘All building and eating and technology and story-telling are culturally important, but people learned long ago that these could be done better and more effectively. This better and more effective doing is what we call art. … Story telling is an art. … The power of art to modify or challenge or transform a culture both at the popular level and among the elite means that those who now seek a deep cultural transformation need to give it special attention and emphasis.’ From protest music to religious rituals and pop art and high culture, ‘opening up for us new ways of seeing the world. …The artists also offer us the most powerful instruments for effecting an actual change of consciousness.’ (58)

Introductory Courses to Whitehead’s Philosophy

I decided to do one of the introductory courses offered simultaneously to the sessions within the above sections, in order to deepen my understanding of Whitehead. These were taught by two leading Whiteheadians Arran Gare and Robert Mesle. Given the length of this blog post I’ll save that for another time…

Havana: Aesthetics of an old city in changing Communist Cuba

My partner and I recently spent a week in Cuba in June, mostly in the apocalyptic-like old city of Havana. My research supervisor asked if we speak at a “soiree” at his house, and in preparation I gathered some of my thoughts here.

While I reveled in the history and politics, my partner is an artist and conversationalist, leading him to engage with the multi-layered city in a different way than I did. Two of the most striking aspects of Havana are photographic wall murals in the making…IMG_4878

First there’s the buildings, the mixture of magnificent old Spanish squares, generally a few levels high, some part of a new reconstruction project, others awaiting their make-over or demolition house large trees and ginormous vines that hang out of the windows onto the street. We worried about our safety as we first drove in. Soon enough we realised it was relatively safe. Appearances can be deceiving.

Secondly, in stark contrast to the river of grey and black SUVs that fill our traffic-filled lanes, the cars in Havana are as they say: take you straight back in time. American vintage cars worth god knows how much, beckon you for a drive – around the city, to the countryside or to the beach.IMG_4595 IMG_4606Hot pink classics toot their horns. All of them seem to carry white-skinned foreigners, driven by a darker skinned driver.

The opening up of Cuba’s doors, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is changing the landscape of the audaciously equitable society. In times past, lawyers and street cleaners earned the same salary. Id didn’t matter what you did, each is contributing to “the party”  and each gets paid the same – the equivalent of US$20 per month salary. Translated into Cuban Pesos, a currency only for Cubans, this $20 goes much further for them than it would in any other country. However beyond necessities there’s no space for a beer in the tourist restaurants or a fancy meal.IMG_5006

Cubans can now run small businesses, rent out habitacions in their houses, run cafes, restaurants and shops, and from foreigners they can make much more than they used to. Locals now sit outside the restaurants or approach you at the table, asking for money. US $1 is a twentieth of their month’s salary, so it’s not surprising they’d like more.

In the countryside one can see the historic equality in an even more striking way. While uniquely painted the houses are the same size and design, with two identical rocking chairs on each front porch.

People seem happy, yet also stiffed.IMG_4782

On one hand they have been set free through free education all the way to doctoral level, free healthcare, somewhere to live and an equal wage for all.

On the other hand the regime has imprisoned them in its equality: they are not allowed to question the regime, they have not been allowed to leave the country, and as Cuba slowly opens up on $20 per month it is very difficult to afford to.

How often do you see street workers watching one person take their turn with the work? Imagine a whole society with one employer! Inefficiency, bureaucracy and a lack of motivation pervade.

I deeply appreciate the sentiment of the Cuban Revolutionaries: to free the people of corrupt dictator, to empower the people. What happened?

Freedom is more than just a financial matter. It’s more than education. It’s also more than freedom to own property, as often emphasised in western societies.

Freedom is about freedom to participate – to shape one’s own life story and to participate in the broader stories of society, culture, species and planet which we are a part of. I will write more on the revolutionaries in a separate blog…

What will happen to the aesthetics of Havana as Cuba opens up?

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I hope they do not allow the export of the vintage cars, and I hope they keep some of the buildings untouched in addition to the restorations. I hope they can keep their values and their vibrant culture, while enabling more of the freedoms that Che Guevara’s Pedagogy actually aspired to.

I hope they can bring in a democracy that is in better form than ours, one that is not corrupted by the media and its strings pulled by corporate interests and lobby groups…   

Money tips for Australians travelling to Cuba:

  • $AUD is worthless, unless you can find a generous tourist who will exchange with you;
  • Visa and Mastercards will not work in ATMs, but some cards work sometimes when you line up inside a bank;
  • Phone calls at $5 a minute so being on hold to your bank for even 10 minutes is EXPENSIVE!!!
  • Even the ANZ Travel Card fine print says it cannot be used in Iran, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and … CUBA.
  • Save yourself the hassle and bring $US, Euro or Pounds.

 

A few more snaps:

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With our lifesavers and new friends, who very generously helped us out of our cash dilemma.

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Farming practices as a national security threat

Earlier this year I had the great privilege and honour of having lunch with quantum physicist turned environmental activist and feminist Dr Vandana Shiva. Dr Shiva won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010, and was returning to Sydney as part of an Australian-New Zealand tour warning about the long-term consequences of globalised farming methods.

I attempted to get an article published about some of the things that I learned. After many drafts, three submissions and one rejection (the other two never replied), I have decided rather than leave it on my hard-drive unread, I will share it with you here…

Farming practices as a national security threat

Quantum physicist turned environmental activist and feminist Dr Vandana Shiva has a lot to say about national security—and it’s not about spies and intelligence. The real threat is food security.

Vandana Shiva

Dr Vandana Shiva and American farmer Joel Salatin, who did the introduction to “Planet on Plate: eating and farming for our future”

Late last month, Shiva spoke to a sell-out Sydney audience as part of an Australian-New Zealand tour warning about the long-term consequences of globalised farming methods.

Frozen berries anyone?

In her Sydney presentation and in several books – such as Soil Not Oil and Making Peace With the Earth – Shiva argues that the ways that foods are farmed, delivered and consumed have a direct impact on human health and planetary wellbeing.

One Indian farmer commits suicide every thirty minutes. In the last twenty years, over 290,000 have ended their lives.

Traditional farming methods prioritised biodiversity, nurturing microorganisms in the top layer of soil that are essential to producing nutritious crops. With globalising modern farming methods, says Shiva, topsoil and microorganisms are disappearing.

Modern farming methods are designed to deliver cash crops. This means that one form of crop is planted year after year on the same land, for sale on the global market. Such practice is destructive of land and lives. There is nothing “efficient” about it.

Such supposed modern farming requires more water and chemical fertilizers. Yet, according to Shiva, modern farming produces lower yields, lower health and lower wealth per acre than traditional farming.

The more deficient the soil, the more deficient the crops, and the more difficult the lives of farmers. The less diversity of food produced for local populations, the more poverty, the faster the population growth, and the cycle of poverty continues. Less supply and more demand means prices will rise on the global market, for less nutritious food.

Lurking behind modern farming are powerful corporations, who patent seeds and sell them to farmers for single-use. Shiva stresses that if seeds continue to be privatised, patented by corporations and sold to farmers for single-use, more and more farmers will be driven to suicide. Introducing genetically modified organisms (GMO) into the food chain produces further destruction.

The ethics and implications of modifying seed DNA are debatable. Some consider them “Frankenstein monsters,” and others plead they will address world hunger. To be sure there is no consensus.

The concern, for Shiva, is the powerful corporations that destroy traditional farming are also preventing information about GMO from reaching the headlines.

“They have so much power, it takes nothing for them to silence us. Even scientific publications in top peer-reviewed academic journals have been recalled thanks to their power,” Shiva shrugs.

“Experiments have connected GM maize to health problems, including to chronic kidney deficiencies, liver problems, tumours and earlier deaths,” Shiva explains.

GM foods clearly require more testing before they are sold, but it’s too late for that: unlabelled genetically modified oils, meats (animals fed GM feed) and other foods are already on Australian shelves.

At the end of Shiva’s Sydney presentation, a young student of public health at Sydney University spoke about the death of her father, a farmer in Uganda. Prior to his passing, he said to her: “Daughter, all the old men are dying because of the foods they are forcing us to grow. If we try to grow the foods that we know are good for us, they send in all these young men and they just uproot them from our gardens.”

Due to a lack of training in how to handle toxic agricultural chemicals and hybrid seed varieties, many farmers in Uganda are dying. Thanks to the lower crop yields that result from these patented seeds, many people in her village are hungry.

As climate instability worsens, the gap between rich and poor widens, soil quality declines and more species become extinct, what can be done?

Instead of globalising production, Dr Shiva calls for localisation: bringing back biodiversity instead of cash crops.

Local responses in Australia could include buying foods from local markets, or supporting corner stores rather than supermarket giants. Starting a conversation about seed patenting and GMO, encouraging the organization you work for to put people before their profits, and choosing ethical superannuation funds.

Make your interests known: if governments and corporations realise that voters and consumers care about their health and planetary wellbeing, perhaps they will take the issues of food, energy and climate more seriously.

If the Australian government wants to do more for national security, they could read the Sydney Peace Prize laureate’s Making Peace with the Earth and look for ways of protecting the interests of all Australians.

I’ve gone organic, and this is why…

I’ve gone organic, well, where an easy enough choice is available for not a completely unaffordable price. I’m trying to go to the Marrickville farmers markets on Sundays, to buy a box of ethical vegies, fruits, meats, and other products and support more local farmers and small business.

Why? It is a stretch to say that buying locally grown organic food can save the world, but from what I can tell it is an important part of moving toward a sustainable society. It saves CO2 emissions involved in transporting good from “developing” countries to the supermarket. Organic farming promotes biodiversity, maintains top soil quality, and hence is more nutritious than mono-crop farming.

If you think that the quality of our apples is getting worse, you are right. So are the varieties.

This video by Upworthy exposes three myths that we are told about industrial agriculture:

  • Myth #1: We need technology like genetic engineering and pesticides to grow more food.
  • Myth #2 : Food corporations are working hand in hand with farmers.
  • Myth #3: We need to double food production in order to feed the planet by 2050.

Upworthy - exposing agriculture fallacies

Dr Vandana Shiva is doing great work on “seed sovereignty”, encouraging a return to traditional farming methods that care for the people who produce and eat the food, as well the soil, the planet and future generations:

On the other hand…

My friend who did a PhD in food security begged to differ with at least part of the points made  about GM foods above. He believes that GMO foods in themselves are not necessarily bad (though they could do with more testing) but that the patenting of them is. He suggested I read a book called Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food by  Pamela C. Ronald and R. W. Adamchak.

I haven’t read it yet, but when I’ll do I’ll let you know what I think…

Otherwise please add your comments below – interested in the different perspectives on the personal health and global implications for organic vs genetically modified, locally vs mass produced and transported foods…

Reframing your mind: changing negative to positive one micro story at a time

“Whatever you want to succeed at, you need to replace any negative scripts you might have with positive ones” (Ash and Gerrand 2002: 7). We need to reframe our minds, changing negative stories to positive stories, one micro story at a time.

Eve Ash and Rob Gerrand’s (2002) Rewrite your life! is a book full of tips on how to reframe the micro stories in your mind from negative to positive affirmations, that empower you to be work hard (rather than procrastinate), be confident (rather than full of fear), be happier (rather than depressed), and do whatever it is you want to do.

The book offers positive scripts for  study, scripts to be powerful, scripts for interviews, scripts for relationships, resolving conflict, for speeches, and more. Ash and Gerrand suggest a process in which you:

(1) set specific goals;

(2) identify positive and negative scripts;

(3) replace any negative scripts with positive ones;

(4) make the new scripts a habit.

Most importantly, we should get rid of scripts such as “I’m stuck.” “I’ll never get out of this situation” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Instead, we can develop habitual scripts such as:

“I can learn”

“I can change”

“I can improve”

As they put it, mover from the “Negative Land of W – Wishing, Wallowing and Wasting time” and into the “Positive Land of W – Wanting to achieve, Willing to learn and Working hard.” (35)

For example, if a micro story in your mind tells you “Rules are rules. You can’t change them”; you can change this to the micro story: “Rules can be challenged.”

Or, if the micro story says: “You can’t trust anyone.” You can change this to the story “Most people are trustworthy.”

Similarly, change the story “This is too hard. I need a break.” to “I’ll finish this first, then take a break.” (7)

Some more examples:

From negative stories: To positive stories:
“I’m no good at ___”“I’ll never be ____”“I can’t cook”“I don’t think I can sell this”

“I have limited vocabulary”

“I don’t want to be here”

 

“This will be a challenge”“I want to learn ___”“I can learn to cook”“What I am selling has some real benefits and they will be interested”

“The words I use are good words”

“This is difficult, but I’m going to enjoy the challenge and I will succeed.”

Overcome fear scripts such as fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear of not being liked.

This is a big one for me.

Change negative speech stories:

“I am not an expert in this field. I can’t lead this discussion.”

“I will be nervous and embarrassed”

Into positive speech stories:“Although I am not an expert in this field I can facilitate this discussion”

“With thorough planning I will be confident in the delivery” (20)

“I will enjoy this talk. I’m going to enjoy this challenge. I know my subject matter… I will do well… It’s going to feel great when I have finished.” (84)

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 Change negative sleep stories from:

“I can’t sleep in a chair”

“I can’t sleep on a plane”

“I’m going to be a wreck if I don’t have eight hours’ sleep”

To positive sleep stories:“I can sleep anywhere – on the floor, on a bus, even standing up”

“I don’t need much sleep”

“I will enjoy the sleep I do manage to grab, regardless of the amount”

Transform negative health stories like:“I can’t give up smoking – I’ve tried before”

“I like junk food”

“I have a weakness for chocolate. I can’t help myself”

“Once I start eating cake I can’t stop”

“I’m too fat to exercise – people will make fun of me”

“I need another beer”

“I always have at least six cups of coffee a day”

“I need a few drinks to relax after work”

(267-8)

Into nurturing scripts, eating scripts, exercise scripts, commitment scripts such as:“I will never smoke again”

“I will cut down on fast food”

“I will eat more vegetables and fruit”

“I will drink a lot of water every day”

“If I’m hungry between meals I’ll eat some fruit”

“I will only have one coffee per day”

“I will go for a walk or swim”

“I will listen to music and relax”

“I will have a cup of tea after work to relax.”

(268-9)

PS. “Beware of False Promise scripts” that have a “built-in escape from the promise” eg “I’ll try to be punctual” “I’m going to do this when I have time” “We must catch up for lunch sometime” – these block us (17).

PPS. Perhaps most importantly “Think about what you want, not what others think.” (67)

Reference:

Eve Ash & Rob Gerrand (2002), Rewrite your life! How to turn your negative thoughts into positive scripts and change your life, Australia: Penguin Books

Get it here: http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/isbn/0143001353/

Taming the beast: technology, corporatism and our shared future

Have we reached a point in the processes of industrialisation, globalisation, and corporatisation in which we have lost control over our culture, our lives and our shared future?

Looking at my life, the lives of those around me, the media and global politics and economics, I think we have.

It seems to me that technology controls us, rather than us controlling it. Corporations control us, rather than us controlling it. Laws control us, rather than us controlling them.

We have become slaves to the gods of profit and economic growth, and we have allowed laws to dissipate responsibility for its consequences.

For example, we have put in place laws that give corporations the rights of persons without the responsibilities. We allow them to f**k up our Earth and its creatures—to extract its resources, to turn fertile land into mono-cropped desert, pollute our air, to cause species to go extinct and work people to their graves—with “limited liability” for its owners and decision-makers.

We have turned ourselves into cogs in a gigantic network of customs and laws that allow corporations and governments to devour lands and people, and our individual actions (purchases, investments, tweets, votes) are the fuel to its fire.

I think we can turn this around. Humans created technology, corporations and laws, and humans can master them if we want.

We don’t have to be slaves to our jobs, to our phones, to our email, to our society. We are free-thinking beings, who can educate our selves and each other to care about the planet and about the lives of those we share it with. We can solve the problems at the heart of the violence, we can change the rules of this game.

We need to step back, take a look at our creation. Rather than being the consequence of it, rather than letting it (technology, marketing, society) determine our desires, we need to cultivate the skills and practices to reclaim control over our future.

Technology is a blessing and a curse.

Globalisation is a blessing and a curse.

Corporations can be blessings or a curse.

Law can be a blessing or a curse.

We need to look at the ways that technology, globalisation, corporations and laws can work for us rather than against us. We need to cultivate its blessings and discipline its curses.

We need to examine the complex of technology, corporations, governments, and laws, in connection with our decisions and actions, and their consequences both in daily life and in the long term—for ourselves, our species and the Earth community—and evolve them to be more satisfying, sustainable and just.

It’s time to take the reins and tame that beast!

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Slave to society

Society draws us into its world of the trivial, making us slaves to the superficial, the menial, its time-wasting ego-based self-absorbed naval-gazing meaninglessness. It is evermore relentlessness with its inescapable myriad of communication paths that bath you in guilt.

“I haven’t replied to this.” “I haven’t called that person back.” “I have to do this.” “I must remember that.” The voices in my head remind me that I could spend my whole life, day in day out, responding to this and that.

It is far too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day riffraff of responding to emails, text messages, paying bills, planning events, attending events, sorting photos, scrolling Facebook, reading the news, updating software on phones and computers … and spending time just thinking about and worrying about emails, text messages, bills, people politics, world politics, events, photos, Facebook, updates, back ups etc. etc. etc.

We can so easily get caught up in doing “stuff” without being conscious or present, without really experiencing or creatively participating in the process of life. This is being a slave to society.

How can we be set free? I don’t think any one else can set you free. It’s all a construction. It’s all your own construction.

It’s only our self who can say “no” to this boring western-societal slavery.

It’s only our self who can say “yes” to freedom.

It’s only our self who can enforce limitations on time, space and energy given to others, in order to allow the time, space and energy to create.

In order to say “yes”, one must say “no”.

In a world in which you can remain connected with every person you have ever met, one has to get strict about what one does and does not do.

Regardless of whether you want to say “yes” to an invitation or request, sometimes in you still have to say “no”. If a person’s time and energy is stretched in every which direction, what time and energy will that person have for themselves? What will be left to do what that person feels they are actually on this planet to do???

Emancipating oneself from the chains of society is difficult. I struggle with it. I hate saying “no” when people ask me to do things, go places, etc. Especially because almost all of it is stuff I actually do want to do.

There are so many people who I love spending time with. There are so many people I would love to spend more time with. Friends who have had babies six months ago, whom I haven’t even paid a visit. Friends across the world who I haven’t been in touch with for months or even years. I want to make time for this too!

Every hour, every day, every night, every weekend, gets so full. With what, it’s hard to say.

All I can sum is that I’ve been a slave to society. I need to create a habit of saying “no” to more things more often, in order to set myself free.

I need to give myself the time, space and energy to read, think, write, meditate, stretch, to slow down time, and to more deeply experience and participate in the gift of the present within this momentous process of life of which I (and you) are a part.

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Commemorating 100 years of Alan Watts

Today marks the 100-year birthday of Alan Watts. While Watts’ “came out of this world” on 6 January 1915, and “returned to the world” in 1973 (far too young, at 58 years old), his legacy continues and expands in influence and appreciation.

Alan Watts

Alan Watts was a polymath of spirituality, religions, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, phenomenological, among his many disciplines. Though he tried to prevent labels, he was an expert in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, had a stint as an Episcopal clergyman, and a professor and dean of the Academy of Asian . He called himself a “philosophical entertainer”.

Watts was a man before his time, he had visions of the future that have come true, he was a man outside of time, using psychedelic drugs to understand that space beyond, he was a man of ancient wisdom, and a voice of the future who people in millennia ahead are likely to see to be one of the most transcendent and illuminating of all.

Watts is most famous for his influence in bringing Eastern thought to the West. He had a unique ability to make the complex simple, and to make the serious fun.

He describes himself as a ‘sedentary and contemplative character, an intellectual, a Brahmin, a mystic, and also somewhat of a disreputable epicurean who has had three wives, seven children, and five grandchildren’ to which he says he ‘cannot make up my mind whether I am confessing or boasting’ (Watts 1972: x).

He recalls that he has ‘come to see that my own “sins” are as normal and as boring as everyone else’s … beyond boasting on the one hand, or confessing or apologizing on the other, I find my life intensely interesting’ (6).

Watts is a living example of his philosophy, to the extent that even his autobiography does not follow a ‘linear dimension,’ since he explains that ‘I do not subscribe to the chronological or historical illusion that events follow one another on a one-way street, in series… the world itself isn’t strung out; it exists in many dimensions.’

His purpose is to entertain the reader, and perhaps even more so to entertain himself. Instead he tell his biography starting from the present, ‘from which the past rails and vanishes like the wake of a ship.’

He admits to accusation of critics of his repetition, explaining that ‘varied repetition is the essence of music.’ He says: ‘Each of the twenty books I have had published arrives at the same destination from a different point of departure, … Taking the premises of Christian dogmatics, Hindu mythology, Buddhist psychology, Zen practice, psycho analysis, behaviorism, or logical positivism, I have tried to show that all are aiming, however disputatiously, at one center. This has been my way of making sense of life in terms of philosophy, psychology, and religion’ (4).

Watts’ influence is widespread and still unfolding: in our culture, in academia, and in the world.

Peter J. Columbus and Donadrian L. Rice collected essays Here and Now explore Watts’ contribution to contemporary academic literature in psychology, philosophy and religion, pointing to many areas yet untapped.

Watts was involved in setting up (what is now called) the California Institute of Integral Studies, which continues to offer university courses in the interdisciplinary fields that Watts explored. Ralph Metzner, Brian Swimme and Charlene Spretnak are among its esteemed professors.

Watts had a significant influence in counterculture movement of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, that started in San Fransisco and spread across the world. The Occupy Movement and many environmental and social movements to advocate its values.

Watts’ lectures, many recorded on his home on an old ferry boat S. S. Vallejo in Sausalito, California, uplift the moods of millions of people every day: http://www.alanwatts.org/collections.php

Watts books have influenced writers such as Deepak Chopra (see his Introduction to The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety), Spike Jonze (hence Watts’ cameo appearance in the movie Her) and the animators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone- see their videos:

A new film by his son Mark Watts, who is now building The Alan Watts Mountain Center north of San Francisco, was released last year: http://www.alanwatts.org/news.php

You’ll never regret getting his books, downloading his lectures, or now the Apps… here are some links to his books on Amazon:
In My Own Way: An Autobiography
The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience
Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation
Tao: The Watercourse Way
Psychotherapy East and West
The Supreme Identity
Myth and Ritual In Christianity
Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion
The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness
Nature, Man and Woman
Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives
Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality
You’re It!: On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found

 

What I like most about Alan Watts is the way that he tackled the myopia of modern day society, that is, the short-sightedness that leads to a lack of care for the long-term well-being of our planet, an onslaught of alienation and anxiety associated with the future of “me” and what happens when “I” die, that makes it difficult to really enjoy life.

He counters this myopia with a holistic view of the self as the world, both which are involved in an ongoing cosmic process of creation and appreciation. In this view “You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.”

I will continue to share his insights on this blog, as Watts’ writings continue to inspire and ground my own philosophy of life.

 

References:

Alan Watts, 1972. In My Own Way: An Autobiography. California: New World Library.