While taking a break from blogging this summer, i’ve been working my way through the chapters of Turning Signs, checking and inserting links, rephrasing or rewriting a bit here and there, updating some factual details and so on. This has taken me though 2/3 of the chapters now, so i’m calling this version TS 2.3 (downloadable from here). It’s come a long way from the original (2015) version.
I caught Covid two weeks ago, and the symptoms are still very much with me, so i don’t have much else to say at this point, even if i had the energy to say it. Covid seems to be at least a temporary cure for the disease of ambition. On the longer and less personal time scale, no global cure is in sight for the disease of vaulting human ambition to dominate and consume the planet. Maybe some local ecosystems and communities will learn something from the hyperactive history of the Anthropocene. Whether Turning Signs could make some minute contribution to that learning, i really don’t know, but it’s all i have to offer.
Turning Signs 2.2.2 is now ready for download. I call it the Easter edition because I’ve just finished revisiting/revising Chapter 4, which only contains a little of the traditional Easter story, but leads up to the resurrection of the body. And the TStudy circle is meeting tomorrow morning to spring into that chapter. May all readers flourish.
The weekly TStudy circle is moving on to Chapter 3, so this coming Saturday morning we’ll be conversing about the first three to five sections of it. Once again i’ve made a few tweaks to the text, mostly for the sake of clarity, so even if you’ve read it before you may need to read it again. If questions or comments occur to you while reading, feel free to share them in a comment on this post.
Welcome to 2023, all. Much of my past year has gone into a complete overhaul of the reverse side of Turning Signs, culminating in the publication of TS 2.2, which is now online. After a few years of focusing mainly on the transition, and trying to make sense of this time of our lives, i’d like to dig deeper into some of the basic patterns of sense-making and choice-making that have evolved on this planet.
This is what Turning Signs is about – especially the patterns that we don’t usually pay attention to, because they are as familiar as the air we breathe, and therefore unnoticed. But after 22 years of gathering information and inspiration from a wide range of sciences, arts and worldviews, and sharing the results online, i’m hoping to engage in some live conversations with other people who can bring their own ideas to the dialogue, using the book to focus the discussion.
So i’m starting a study circle which will meet periodically (mostly via Zoom) so that small groups of us can exchange views on the basic concepts developed in Turning Signs. It’s all explained on a new page of this blog, which contains a link to my email so you can let me know if you’re interested.
The opening session will be Saturday morning, January 7, at 10:30, and will introduce a special kind of meditation that has emerged from Turning Signs. I’ll be using this blog to notify subscribers of upcoming study circle sessions, so you might want to subscribe even if you’re not ready to join the circle this week.
The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.Thomas Berry (1999, p.3)
This series of blog posts has been mostly about humans connecting with other humans. But Turning Signs (both the book and the blog) has an equally important focus on connecting with planet Earth (biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere and all). Instead of repeating anything i’ve already said here, i’d like to direct you to an article just published in Yes! Magazine, “An Indigenous Perspective on Reconnecting With the Land” by Chevaun Toulouse of Sagamok First Nation, which is just across the North Channel from where i live on Manitoulin Island. That should be a good way to wrap up this series on community connections.
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)
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.