Dear subscribers, i sent this invitation to our local (Manitoulin Island) email group this morning, and decided to include you as well.
I’d like to invite you to a new book club for readers of Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel The Ministry for the Future. It’s set in the immediate future on planet Earth, and the fictional situation is very much like what’s going on around us now.
It’s a gripping story with ecological, psychological, technological, political, ethical and spiritual dimensions. The chapters are mostly short, each with its own point of view, reflecting the diversity of human (and other) viewpoints. The book is widely available in print, Kindle and audiobook formats if you can’t find a copy to borrow.
There are various format options for the book club meetings too. I’m thinking of an in-person gathering at my place (the Honora Bay Free Theatre), perhaps every second Saturday morning, but this can be combined with a Zoom meeting at the same time for those far from Honora Bay (or even from Manitoulin Island). This can continue regardless of changes in public health guidelines.
That regular time and venue won’t be a good fit for everyone, so we could also have pop-up sessions at other times and places (and/or via Zoom) as requested by club members. If needed, I can set up an email list so members can inform each other about upcoming sessions. There is of course no charge and no obligation for club members, except to respect each other’s viewpoints during the conversations. I imagine it might take a few months to talk our way through the book, starting about two weeks from now.
If you are interested, let me know by replying privately to this and i’ll get back to you.
Mediatations 1 (from Lightning the Dark)
Svitlana Krakovska, the Ukrainian delegate to the IPCC, said
“We will not surrender in Ukraine, and we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate resilient future… Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots – fossil fuels – and our dependence on them.” This was just before release of the IPCC report on climate impacts (Feb. 28). A Russian delegate to the conference apologized to his colleagues for the invasion of Ukraine. Source:
21 years ago my wife Pam and i settled on M’nidoo M’nissing, better known to settlers as Manitoulin Island. The Anishinaabe word manitou is often rendered in English as “spirit.” But what does that mean? Anishinaabe scholar Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning relates what she learned about mnidoo from her mother:
This concept mnidoo derives from the word Gizhemnidoo, from my mothers’ dialect …. She translated Gizhemnidoo in several ways; primary among these was Great Spirit (the most common translation in our area). Gizhe (great) is similar to chi (big). We can separate gizhe from mnidoo, which she called spirit, potency, potential— dynamic energy. She said that the word spirit is the anglicized interpretation, but mnidoo is something that is happening, and is about to happen at the same time. Gizhemnidoo is the Great Mystery/Spirit, mind boggling, because it is beyond human comprehension. But virtually everything is mnidoo, little spirits. Everything has a little spirit that is propelled by, and exists, due to this energy.Mnidoo-Worlding: Merleau-Ponty and Anishinaabe Philosophical Translations, p. 3
The big and little spirits correspond more or less to the Big and Little Currents in Turning Signs
). The mnidoo which is ‘something that is happening and is about to happen at the same time’ also corresponds to Dogen’s being-time
, and with the Buddhist Heart Sutra
the Heart Sutra mantra — Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, Bodhi! Svaha! — can be interpreted as “Arriving, arriving, arriving all the way, arriving all the way together: awakening. Joy!” This is a marvelous reminder for our meditation practice that each moment of our practice is, as Dogen suggests, not separate from awakening or enlightenment. Each moment of our practice and of our life is blessed.Tanahashi 2014, 44-45
The languages are many, but as far as we call tell, the meaning is one. Now is the time we need to hear it, especially from the First Peoples of the Earth.
The Great Acceleration has been a time of unprecedented human impact on the environment. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry (1992, 4) wrote that ‘the human has taken over such extensive control of the life systems of the Earth that the future will be dependent on human decision to an extent never dreamed of in previous times.’ But this is a strange kind of “control” …
This is part of a 4-part meditation on control and mediation in the ‘System Guidance’ part of Turning Signs. It updates some older post-points to include some things i’ve learned since they were originally posted. It might take you 10 or 15 minutes to take it all in. Comments always welcome of course!
Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, is intended mainly for honoring the veterans of what we call the “World Wars.” To observe it properly, we ought to see those wars in their context – which is also the context of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) now winding up (or down) in Glasgow. To give us a glimpse of it, George Monbiot “crudely summarized” the story of the past 500 years in his blog post yesterday. That history has brought us to the ecological, economic, energy and equity crises we face today, and living through them will be a far greater challenge than living through those wars, devastating as they were. We have less than a decade to turn that story around.
There’s another kind of remembrance that we ought to engage in every day. In Turning Signs i call it mindfulness.
We who live in the “wealthy nations” don’t have all the time in the world to mend our unjust and ruinous ways. But we have all the world in the time, if we live it mindfully.
In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being.— Dogen, “Uji”
If our children don’t learn much more than we can teach, our lineage is likely to expire.
Another excerpt from Breaking Boundaries:
“In our global intertwined system of 7.8 billion inhabitants living within a complex biosphere, the best way to change course is to alter the lens through which those people in the system view the world.”
Carl Folke: “We must reconnect with the biosphere: the living part of the planet.”
“This may seem obvious. It is like saying, ‘Hey, guys, remember, we live on a planet and we depend on it being stable.’ As if we had forgotten. But when you step back a bit – while driving down asphalt roads surrounded by concrete, steel, and glass, on your way to the shopping mall, to fill up on basic goods like food, and materials for shelter, safety, and comfort – you must admit that, yes, most of us have disconnected from the planet. A slow, silent, but all-encompassing disconnect. We take our planet for granted, at least its stability.” [Breaking Boundaries, p. 110]
Viewing the world at every scale, without taking it for granted, refreshing our view of the time and place we inhabit, is the kind of meditative practice we need in order to “change course.” It’s also an essential practice for philosophers, who are perpetual beginners.
That link takes us to the beginning of the reverse side of Turning Signs, which is also “under refreshment.” The current (2nd) edition of Turning Signs, like the current (3rd) edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, is frequently updated online. In addition to some of the points in TS ·1, i’ve updated my introduction to phenoscopy (my name for the practice of “stepping back” to refresh our perceptions). It’s now also an introduction (or “presign”) to Turning Signs online. I’ll be giving links to other updates in future blog posts.
Richard Heinberg has been researching the central role of energy in civilization for years, and shown how the human addiction to oil has brought us to an unprecedented crisis. His new book gives us a longer and broader perspective on the deeper addiction to power in its physical and social forms. He draws upon insights from biology and anthropology to tell the story of the evolution of power, from the beginnings of life on earth through the development of social hierarchies up to the present, in a very accessible way.
The book’s subtitle is “Limits and prospects for human survival”, and he does explain the radical changes in human habits and systems which must be made in this decade if we are to salvage our planetary life support system along with the better qualities of our collapsing civilization. But given the history of how this situation has evolved, it’s difficult to be honestly optimistic about our prospects. Heinberg’s view is more realistic, for instance in this excerpt from the final chapter:
“There can be no perfect, stable society. Imbalance and impermanence are baked into biological existence. But we are in a particularly explosive moment now. History shows that overconcentrations of physical, economic, military, and political power create instability, and, in the past few decades, humanity has found ways to build and concentrate these kinds of power as never before. The strong likelihood is that we are headed toward what economists glibly call a ‘correction,’ though not just in stock market values but also in population and consumption levels. If we hope to minimize the shock and casualties, we will need to mobilize cooperation and behavior change, aiming to limit our own collective power at a speed and scale that are unprecedented.” [p. 356-7]
This is not a feel-good book, but it is a live-well book that everyone can learn something from.