Saturday, 29 November 2008

Deepak Chopra interviewed about the Mumbai attacks



"Going after the wrong people actually turns moderates into extremists... The perception is that Washington directly or indirectly funds both sides of the the 'War on terror'... Declaring a 'War on terrorism' is an oxymoron ... Hopefully Obama comes up with a policy that says 'Hey! 25% of the world's population is moslem. How can I use this 25% to turn the tables on these terrorist groups?' ... The worst thing that can happen for these terrorist groups is if Obama wins the sympathy of the moslem world."

There is some related material available at the link below, although it looks like the transcript underneath the video on the link below is actually a transcript of a slightly different interview. So I would watch the video, rather than reading the transcript. If I get around to it, I may transcript the video above myself, because I think it Chopra says some very useful things.

Deepak Chopra interviewed about the Mumbai terrorist attacks

Friday, 28 November 2008

Salman Rushdie talks about various things

I'm not exactly sure what relevance this is to my blog, but I think it has one.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Speaking up for the unknown and unknowable

All "belief" is a gamble - a best guess ... otherwise we would call it "knowledge", not belief. We would call it something I KNOW to be true, not something I BELIEVE to be true. It is because I don't know, that I am left choosing what I might like to believe or what I might enjoy believing. It is because collectively WE don't know, that WE are left choosing what we may like to believe or what we may enjoy believing together, or contemplating together, or meditating on together. Beliefs we can share with each other, like the warmth of our embrace around our family and friends and community.

You can, if you must, call this choosing to believe "delusional", but the alternative is to ignore the mystery or deny the mystery or to assert that there is no mystery. There is no mystery? ... I suppose it's plausible. But it doesn't seem very likely to me.

The requirement to bring belief or faith into play is because we don't know. If we did know, there would be no requirement for faith or belief.

It is because we don't know (we really don't know!)... priests don't know any more than scientists, and scientists don't know any more than priests. There is a mystery that lies at the heart of being. An unanswerable question... and NONE OF US KNOWS!

I'm not sure, but I tend to think that none of us know, certainly I don't know.

It is because we don't know that we are left with a choice to believe or not. However it is a choice, and much as Richard Dawkins would like to be able to make the choice for other people as well as himself, I don't think that is really his prerogative.

Certainly wise people may give helpful advice on what are better or wiser or happier or more fulfilling ways to make the choice, or better or wiser or happier choices to make.

But ultimately no one can make the choice for you, or force you to put your faith in a place where it does not feel at home.

Now there are kinds of spiritual knowledge such as experience of the interior realms which are quite possibly not a matter or faith or belief. These kinds of knowledge do not require faith or belief. They simply require introspection. If you believe the sages, there are tangible experiences to had in there, every bit as reproducible as the general relativistic observation that starlight is bent by passing through the curved space created by the gravitational field exerted by the mass of the sun. Quite possibly these kinds of introspective and intra-personal knowledge are the most useful and constructive type of spiritual practice and spiritual discipline. I'm investigating that... I'll post more in the future on how that turns out for me, or if it does.

But lets not confuse any of this knowledge - neither scientific knowledge of the exterior kind, nor spiritual knowledge of the interior kind, with the unfathomable mystery at the heart of being, and at the heart of being human. In the presence of that unfathomable mystery, no one can give you an answer. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn't believe. Possibly nothing. Possibly everything. Possibly anything. Possibly some one thing. The question is, when YOU look into the abyss, what do you see? And when we stand hand in hand and look together, what do WE see?

Of course believing in god is delusional, because that is the nature of belief. All belief is delusional in the sense that it is a guess. It is a response to not knowing.... WE DON'T KNOW. And we don't know. And we don't know. That's why we have to gamble and choose, take a gamble and guess... speculate, meditate, muse, ponder, listen to the mystery of being... or else leave the casino. We put all our chips on black to win. If we knew for certain black was going to come up, there would be no choice to make. The alternative to delusional belief, however, is simply to not play the game. Put down no bets. Walk away from the table. Leave the casino and go back to your hotel room. Risk nothing of yourself, or ourselves. Tell yourself that there is no roulette table really, or even if there is, that gambling is just for suckers. So the choice turns out to be a matter of taste, not a matter of fact. A choice to gamble or not. Risk maybe loosing everything, or winning a fortune. Or else not playing.

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is published by Mariner Books (2008) and Bantam Press (2006)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

What Unites Us as Americans? - What unites us as human beings?






Although I am not "an american", I thought this video had a bearing on my blog. So I'm posting it.

8-)



The website behind this video is:
transpartisan.net

My suggestion is we expand this question out and ask "What unites us as human beings?" ... see: What unites us as human beings?




Thursday, 13 November 2008

Charter for Compasssion


Join the world at www.charterforcompassion.org to write the Charter for Compassion. The Charter brings together the voices of people from all religions. It seeks to remind the world that while all faiths are not the same, they all share the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule. The Charter will change the tenor of the conversation around religion. It will be a clarion call to the world. The Charter is a result of Karen Armstrong's 2008 TED Prize wish.


Here are the links:
Video about the Charter for Compassion

Charter for Compassion web site

Saturday, 23 August 2008

1st Biennial Integral Theory Conference

I came across this, and thought it was worth a pointer to: 1st Biennial Integral Theory Conference

The theme of the conference was "Integral Theory in Action: Serving Self, Other and Kosmos".

The conference was designed to showcase how scholars and professionals are using Integral Theory to impact the lives of individuals and communities, highlight emerging lines of Integral scholarship and research.

The next one is in 2010, so you have plenty of time to get ready for it! 8-)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

What is enlightenment?

Just the word enlightenment, if you pause and think about it, is liable to bring a smile to your face – at least that’s the effect it has on me. What an extraordinary experience that might be if you or I became “enlightened”. It is the dual symbolism of light as opposed to dark and light as opposed to heavy which makes the word such a beacon of pleasantness. What would it be like to live “lightly”, to move “lightly”, the think “lightly”.

Our job as members of the “enlightenment party” (party as in “I’m having a party – would you like to come?” vs. political party), our job is to provide what’s missing. The question is, What IS missing?

Providing what’s missing is not the same as making a name for yourself, providing leadership (leadership may not be missing), etc.

If you provide what’s missing most people may not even notice that you did. In fact one of the first jobs of people who are providing what’s missing is to notice when other people provide something that’s missing! And the second job is being able to identify stuff that’s missing. What’s missing is probably not obvious.

Obviously people shouldn’t have bombs dropped on them, obviously people shouldn’t be deprived of basic necessities or the opportunity to work to obtain them as necessary, but what’s missing to have them not be deprived in this way or be free from having wars waged against them is less obvious.

One thing we may gather from a quick survey of current affairs, although it is not pc to say so, is that huge swathes of the humanity (a big majority) care only about their own petty concerns – and unfortunate or not, they have every right to live out their lives in that way. It doesn't elevate humanity for them to do so, but it is their choice. And so we return to the question – what’s missing for the elevation of all humanity, and how can we provide that?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Distinguishing Competence from Success

IMAO... 8-)

If someone told you that the last 5 projects they had been involved with, in particular the last 5 they had be a leader on, had ended with the project goals not being met, you might tend to doubt their competence. But based only on this information, you would be wrong to do so. Why?

Suppose I now told you that the 5 failed projects were:
(1) Bringing peace to the middle east
(2) Creating a sustainable planetary eco-system
(3) Reducing first year infant mortality to below 1 in 10000 in every country in the world
(4) Creating a habitable environment outside the earth's atmosphere
(5) Inspiring a whole generation to a level of spiritual fulfillment than has previously been only available to a tiny few

You are welcome to add any other of those kinds of projects to the list that belong there. Just exactly what set of projects you would like to include on that list is not the point. The point is that it is a list of objectives which while they maybe extremely desirable, are not the kind of objectives that are just going to fall in to your lap.

Perhaps the most important step in project management is to identify the right project to be working on.

Competence has only a partial relationship with the achievement of project outcomes. There is a whole other side to the equation of how projects succeed or fail and that is a consequence of firstly innovation and risk and secondly the sheer weight of opposition.

The more innovative a project is, the more risky it is, and hence the greater are the chances of it failing to meet objectives. On the other hand, most of us agree that innovation is good. Innovation is the way to make life better for people, rather than simply resign ourselves to the well-known chartered territory of the options that present themselves from the past.

Many of those past options are of course good. Innovation isn't by any means the most important or only thing to value, but it is the path that leads the way to the land of "Better".

Turning to the aspect of the weight of opposition, some projects are just a lot harder.

It is for these two reasons that it is crucially important to distinguish competence from success. Competence is a measure of effectiveness in the fulfillment of an objective which can be measured irrespective of the achievement of project goals.

As such, you may be an extremely competent person who fails to meet your objectives on a daily basis, given the level of opposition or the level of innovation regarding the projects you are working on.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Jennifer Moore discusses Zoe Margolis and anonymous blogging about sex

An email in my inbox last week, reminded me of the brilliance of Jennifer "Single Bass" Moore, and led me to note that Jennifer now has a blog here: Jennifer Moore. Jennifer provides a sharp analysis of all kinds of subjects that are a little bit on the edge of main-stream culture.

Lately in particular she has been discussing Anonymous Blogging about Sex, and the whole "Girl with a One-track Mind" story, as featured on this weeks Radio4 today programme with John Humphries. "Girl with a One-track Mind" blog by Zoe Margolis, aka Abby Lee is here: Zoe Margolis and her Facebook page is here: Zoe Margolis on Facebook

You can read Jennifer's post here: anonymous blogging about sex and here is a quote from the piece, which may give the flavour of the treats in store:

Hard though it might be for some people to believe, not all women are exactly the same as each other.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Integration vs. Disputation

The following are my contributions to a discussion about Integration vs. Disputation in the a Facebook group.

You can see the whole conversation here:


Integration vs. Disputation


Integration looks to see how to bring together seemingly contradictory points of view and present them as aspects of a larger whole. These aspects of the larger whole can then all be seen as part of something which they all have a valid place in. So integration looks for a viewpoint which includes and encompasses all the viewpoints and gives them a place in that totality.

Disputation is more about putting seemingly contradictory points of view into opposition with one another, and trying to see if one or other can score points against the other, or undermine the other, or defeat the other.

I'm not saying that Disputation is not useful ever. Just that at the moment I think Integration is more something that is missing from the public discourse.

To elaborate Integration further, Wilber has used this line a thinking to show how the internal viewpoint, looking outwards from the point of view of a subject, and the external viewpoint, looking in from the outside, both belong in the same universe. Whereever there is an interior there is also an exterior.

If you are inside it is easy to think that the view looking out is the only valid viewpoint. If you are outside it is easy to think that the only valid viewpoint is the one looking at the subject from the outside.

Integration theory moves in the direction of saying that both of these viewpoints are valid. It provides us with a clear understanding of how it is possible that they can BOTH be valid. It doesn't do this by ducking the issues. It does it by providing frameworks where all the different viewpoints can be seen as having a place, and hence a validity.

On the other hand it does not shy away from giving scales or value judgements w.r.t. those viewpoints. Viewpoints which are more encompassing are considered to be more "significant". Viewpoints which are less so are considered to be more "fundamental".



INTERLOCUTOR



Thanks for responding.

Ken Wilber's idea is more that it is possible not just to take a little bit of everything, but to take the whole of everything, and place it in a framework which is sufficiently all encompassing that the validity of all perspectives can be appreciated.

Wilber uses a common 2 dimensional grid, and on one dimension he puts Interior and Exterior, and on the other he puts Individual and Collective.

This gives you 4 quadrants: Interior-Individual (I), Interior-Collective(We), Exterior-Individual(It), Exterior-Collective(Its).

The idea is that the language used in each of these quadrants has its own validity. And to assert the validity of the language of I, does not need to negate the validity of the language of It.

8-)



INTERLOCUTOR


It seems a bit scary entering the fray in this group. Seems like to an extent the self-righteousness of the Anti-religious members is just as fanatical as the self-righteousness of the Religious ones.

The real advance of human development comes from giving up self-righteous on all sides. Religious people need to do that. So does everyone else.

The difficulty is how to suggest to people that they give up being self-righteous without sounding like I am being even more self-righteous than they are. ;-)

That makes the job of people who care to listen at least as much as they speak... which is not easy. (So thank you again.)



INTERLOCUTOR



I wonder if you will allow me to respond in a slightly round about way?

When people stand in front of a work of art, they don't typically tend to ask "is this painting right, or wrong?". It is much more natural to ask the question "is this painting beautiful or ugly?"... "do I like it or don't I like it?"

You might even respond by saying "this painting has no place being in a gallery... it is a grotesque idea to suggest that this is art or that it deserves my attention".

But whatever response you gave, you almost certainly would not say, "I think this artwork is 'wrong' " ... the question of whether a persons expression of their vision of life, or their point of view on life is "right" or "wrong" is simply the Wrong question.

I think the domain of questions that should be used to determine good and bad religious ideas are much more like the kinds of questions that we ask about works of art, than about works of engineering.

What I want to know when I go across a bridge is "will it hold up?"

To ask about a work of art "will it hold up?" is simply a mistake.

To ask about religious ideas are they Right or Wrong is the same kind of mistake.

INTERLOCUTOR


Well, in a way, I think we agree.

The criteria of validity in different domains is different.

In the realm of "It" and "Its", I want to know that the drug I'm taking has been tried out on several thousand rats and none of them died any sooner than would have otherwise been expected.

In the realm of "I" and "We", I can marvel at how other people's views of the world and of life can be so different to my own. The very old and very young in particular.

When someone says "My artwork can change the laws of nature", in the realm of "It" and "Its" that is for the most part simply wrong. At the very least I would expect a community of the adequate (peer review in scientific journals etc.) to be convinced before I would take them seriously.

In the realm of "I" and "We" they might be joking, or being ironic, or being poetic, or they might be insane... who knows! The statement might be funny, or stupid, or annoying, or arrogant, or self-righteous even. On the other hand it might give me access to some spiritual insight I hadn't seen before. In the realm of "I" and "We" the one thing they certainly wouldn't be, is Wrong.

In order to be Wrong, you need to at least be a candidate for being Right. And in the realm of "I" and "We" there are no such candidates.

What gives our communities trouble, is mixing up domains of discourse which usefully can be kept distinct from each other.

This allows me to see that the ideas of "Allah" and "Jesus" may both be beautiful (or ugly) (and that is the interesting question) without having to confuse myself with questions about whether either of these ideas has been tested on rats.




INTERLOCUTOR



If we are going to talk about "God", and I get the feeling that the point of this group is that we shouldn't be, but if we are then I would say that the kinds of conversations to have about her are different in each domain of language.

We can talk about God in any of the domains. The mistake is to mix up the criteria of adequacy from one domain with the ideas that really are coming from a different one. You can mix these up, I'm just saying isn't necessary. And if you don't most of the pain and suffering about religion just goes away.

The realm of It/Its refers to "Exteriors", the view of something from the outside. What kind of "It" might be being referred to in the case of God is slightly beyond me. Possibly we might think of God as being the universe. If we did that then I'm not quite sure what kind of physics experiment we could conduct that would allow us to look at the Universe from outside of the universe, and I'm not quite sure what it would tell us, even if could do that experiment.

The realm of I/We is the one we are familiar with in terms of talking about God. "My relationship with God", "My beliefs", "Our culture", "Our religion"... on and on and on, yada, yada, yada.

8-)




INTERLOCUTOR




I think possibly we are saying similar things in slightly different ways.

I think I can summarise my suggestion by saying that I think religions and religious ideas are more a matter of art than a matter of science. More a matter of the interior-collective and interior-individual domains than anything than yields to exterior analysis. And we should be encouraging religious people to think of themselves in this way as spiritual artists belonging to different traditions.

As such the useful question to ask about religious ideas, religious rituals and religious practices are which are the most beautiful or spiritually nurturting, rather than which are the least wrong when subjected to laboratory analysis.

Good artists rarely care about whether their artworks are justified or logical. Very often the meaning of a great artwork is ambiguous, powerful and compelling yes, but somehow just out of reach from easy illucidation.

Art is designed for all kinds of purposes, not only just to make us happy, but also to provoke, inspire, unite, entertain, poke fun at, tease, reconcile, amuse, evelate, console, comfort, rebel against, make us laugh, make us cry, make us appreciate our friends a bit better, ... we could go on endlessly with this list, right? Could it not be that religious ideas, rituals and practices have this same endless range of intentions?

As I see it we need a way of framing religion that would allow religious people to see themselves as part of the same club, rather than different clubs. And thinking about religious mythology as a kind of art would allow this to happen.

It would also allow some non-religious types to consider the value of religious practice without thinking it needs to be lab-tested.

Thank you for discussing it. I have enjoyed and benefitted from the discussion.




INTERLOCUTOR



Well I apologise for my comment about self-righteousness. I didn't say that your group is self-righteous - I don't think I said that (although that is a lot of reading now for me to be sure) - just some of the attitudes expressed by some members in it. I suppose that is with same with any debating-type group.

On the more interesting matter of whether or not religious people are making metaphysical claims, one of the things that is useful about the 4 quadrant idea is that we can at least initial give people the benefit of the doubt. If we were to think of those "metaphysical claims" as belonging to either the interior-individual or interior-collective domains, we don't have to tell people that they are wrong... those claims simply become a part of the artwork of their culture or their personal spritual journey.

We might want to tell them that their artwork is ugly or less beautiful than our own. We might want to say that their artwork is less nurturing or humorous or entertaining that our own. We might want to say that their artwork is less consoling or comforting than our own. We might want to point out that our own artwork gives us a deeper inner peace in the face of life's tragedies than theirs gives them. Etcetera. Etcetera.

But we would not want to tell them that their artwork is wrong. "Wrong" does not belong in the world of the interior... only the world of the exterior.



INTERLOCUTOR




The question of metaphysics is at the heart of this whole conversation. That was where it began.

The question is how to integrate the metaphysics of science with the metaphysics of spirit.

One approach in the past has been to use one as a denial of the other, typically science as a denial of spirit.

The 4 quadrant approach proposed by Ken Wilber (I, We, It, Its) provides an easy way to marry the two together without denying anything.

In simplest terms you say that one is how things look from the outside (science), the other is how things look from the inside (spirit).

They both then have their place. They both then have their own domains of validity and don't need to be put into opposition against each other.




INTERLOCUTOR




My suggestion is that reality does not choose our metaphysics for us. Reality only chooses our physics.

As Richard Rorty says: "The world does not speak Newtonian mechanics or Einsteinian relativity because the world does not speak... Only human beings do that." Or something like that. (See "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity".)

Metaphysics isn't physics. Its what we wrap around physics.

Metaphysical claims aren't claims about external reality. They are proposals about how to FRAME that reality, not claims about the content of that reality. And that leaves the field of choices for wrappers wide open.

As such a metaphysics does not make claims about reality. Rather it makes claims about the artistry of its own design. Metaphysics aims to provide the most appealing way of FRAMING everything.

So metaphysics doesn't make "truth claims" in the sense that Medics and Engineers make truth claims. Rather it says that "if you frame reality like this then it is more enjoyable, or more entertaining, or more coherent, or more inclusive, or more beautiful, or easier to say to someone, or quicker to write down, or scientists get to be more productive because they are not being hampered by religious zealots, or more of us get on better, or it can integrate a more complete picture of human experience, or... " Etcetera. Etcetera.

Reality forces us to accept that Drug X is more effective than Drug Y in treating disease Z.

Reality does not enforce any particular kind of framing on us. However if 6 billion people (and rising) are to stand any kind of chance of getting on with each other the needs of humanity may do.

I think the question becomes: what kind of metaphysics serves us best?

It may be unconfortable that there isn't a single right answer to the question of metaphysics. But to make that assertion is not a cowardly ducking of the issues. I think it is rather brave, in fact.

There is an unfathomable mystery at the heart of all existence, at the beginnning and end of time, and at the centre of being a human being. It is not being self-deceptive to want to engage with this mystery in as honest a way as each one of us is able.




INTERLOCUTOR




Well that sort of gets to the heart of what I'm saying.

My suggestion is that metaphysics doesn't need to be an arguement against theology if you make your metaphysics big enough. If you make your metaphysics big enough you can integrate science and spirituality, and make a "marriage of sense and soul". Rather than thinking that one is an argument against the other.

That is why I was warning against self-righteousness. Because there is a mystery at the heart of all of this. Because there is a mystery there isn't one right answer to the question of metaphysics. However some versions of metaphysics are just a lot more intelectually satisfying, like the 4 quadrant view.

The 4 quadrant view is a kind of metaphysics which makes it possible to see how physical reality and spiritual awareness can coexist, belong together even, in the same universe without having to sideline either of them.



INTERLOCUTOR




The 4 quadrant view does not shy away from value judgement of what is more or less significant, and what is more or less fundamental.

Magical thinking and mythic thinking are both kinds of thinking which are considered to be "pre-rational". In the development of human societies they get incorporated and transcended by rational thinking. Rational thinking has a higher place in the hierachy. (Wilber calls it a "Holarchy", because the higher levels incorporate and transcend the lower levels... include them inside themselves.)

Interestingly enough the development of human consciousness does not need to stop at the rational level... Wilber outlines a whole series of Post-rational levels of thinking.

The tendency of rational people is to dismiss the Post-rational along with the Pre-rational. For the most part this may be fair enough, because (as I understand it) there isn't much of any society in the world today that is operating at the post-rational level.

There is also a tendency to mix up post-rational with pre-rational thinking into one great big mess of confusion. This seems to happen particularly with people who are into "new age" stuff.

I did a quick google search and found this... I don't think its particularly complete, I remember there being more levels out after rational, but it does give the gist. 8-)







INTERLOCUTOR


To come back to your point about the rationalism being hindered by religion and post-rationalism being hindered by rationalism, Wilber thinks that the inclusion of the lower levels allows for the arising of the higher levels. Without the lower levels there is no foundation on which to build the higher levels... He has done a load of investigations into human development theory (like Piaget) and cultural development that he uses to back up this claim.

Sorry to go on about Wilber! Its just that his idea of integration is a very appealing one to me. Perhaps it is off topic for this group, but I was invited to join, and when I thought about some of the things I read being said here, that was what it made me think of.

Incidentally, I notice I need to be careful because "religion" is a big group.

If we are talking about magical and mythical thinking then Wilber agrees that Rational thinking is at a higher level than that.

However some spiritual practices (and intellectual practices) are designed to elevate human consciousness beyond the rational level. Meditation in particular seems to point in this direction, and I wouldn't want to be too quickly dismissive of prayer, pilgrimage, or other less obvious kinds of spiritual rituals.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Learning from the best marketeers on the planet

I'm am trying to learn from the best marketeers on the planet.

Here is one of my sources:



Could it be possible to sell something new to the world?
(1) A world where the basic needs of all people are met.
(2) A world where violence only occurs between consenting adults.
(3) A world where a self-determined relationship with the eternal is the birth-right of all people.
(4) Oh yes, and lots of SEX.