Karukku

“We who are asleep must open our eyes and look about us. We must not accept the injustice of our enslavement by telling ourselves it is our fate, as if we have no true feelings; we must dare to stand up for change. We must crush all these institutions that use caste to bully us into submission, and demonstrate that among human beings there are none who are high or low. Those who have found their happiness by exploiting us are not going to go easily. It is we who have to place them where they belong and bring about a changed and just society where all are equal.”
— Bama, in her autobiographical novel “Karukku

Agreed with regard to all civilization, everywhere in the world

Arbitrary rule

Recently, the Auroville Council has presented a draft paper, for feedback, containing the envisioned future conflict management procedure of the township. A significant part of it deals with the final steps of conflict resolution, namely arbitration as a means to finish the dispute.
Let me explain why I think arbitration is detrimental to what we are seeking to achieve in Auroville, and what we could try instead.

From the collection of Mother’s explanations of Auroville’s aims and ideals we know that its society is supposed to be what she calls a “Divine Anarchy”, a community in which each individual, and the township as a whole, is guided by a higher consciousness. In effect, we would not need to be governed by any worldly authority because we would take responsibility for our deeds ourselves, acting in the interest of the common good. We would still have different opinions, but we would not deem them more valuable than anybody else’s needs. Embracing our diverse world as it is we would make decisions in consensus with others. That requires a great deal of understanding of people’s needs and motivations.

In the old paradigm, the civilization we have been born into, it is understood that, in a world of scarcity, the needs of individuals compete with each other for fulfillment. Therefore my gain is your loss, and vice versa.
In order to overcome this kind of thinking we must learn to resolve conflicts by achieving a win-win situation, i.e. the needs of everyone involved getting met. Just like NVC [non-violent communication] it doesn’t come easy to us; it has to be trained, dispute by dispute, until it becomes our natural habit to look for common ground. From this new point of view, each conflict situation is a challenge rather than a problem, and it becomes an opportunity to learn and grow. Conflict must not be suppressed in favour of superficial harmony, but rather lived through consciously.

To a large part, the Council’s draft reflects this understanding, describing a procedure that ranges from rather informal talks to facilitated, strictly reglemented methods, including restorative circles, reconciliation, mediation, NVC-meetings, and negotiation. If no agreement is reached the Council imposes arbitration on the conflicting parties and everyone else involved.

Arbitration

Arbitration, basically, is a settlement of affairs by judgement of appointed, ideally non-partial, persons. Their sentence is binding, leaving no choice to anyone affected by it.

As far as the Council is concerned, the conflict, and hence the suffering, ends there.
This is a misapprehension.

Arbitration may shorten the timespan until the issue is off the Council’s table, true enough. But it also stops the process of conflict resolution within the minds of the quarrelling people. It takes their responsibility for coming to a conclusion off their shoulders, and hands it over to an authority which they have no power over. To say that arbitration puts an end to suffering is objectionable for two reasons.
First of all, every time we suffer life tells us that something in our thinking, something in our strategies, something in our actions is not working out. We run into walls, physically or mentally, get hurt, analyze what has happened, and adjust to our new understanding of the world. That’s how we usually learn the important lessons in life. Some call it “trial and error”, some call it “learning by doing”. In short, we need suffering in order to be able to let go of non-functioning thought and behaviour.
Secondly, with arbitration being used to end a dispute, a person’s suffering from the pressures of conflict is getting replaced by suffering under the felt injustice of the verdict. Usually one, often both sides feel that their needs have not been met, their position not been understood. Rightly so, because we all know that even the most respectable arbiter is not free of bias. The pain of being degraded to an object in a decision-making process, to powerlessly having to bear the judgement by another, can be some of the most agonizing among all perceptions. Arbitration thus undermines the belief of the individual in the just, equitable functioning of its society. Authoritarian approaches such as arbitral verdicts are IN THE WAY of achieving a true dissolution of conflicts because the arbiters’ view suppresses contradicting opinions, thus creates rejection instead of acceptance, and the grudge against our opponents, and society as a whole, remains as a splinter under our fingernails.

We should not get forced to accept arbitral verdicts. Not to be willing, though, to do the inner work necessary to achieve the kind of human unity mentioned in Auroville’s charter makes our presence in the township pointless, or even disruptive. Personally developing solutions to our conflicts is therefore a must, a top-priority task given to us, an order to learn. If our consciousness is not evolved enough to come to an agreement with our fellow human beings, we should be forced to work on exactly that issue.
How do we do that?

Intensification

Time seems, to me, of cruical importance in matters of conflict. The longer the quarrelling lasts the more we get used to the rhythm of strike and counterstrike. We adjust to the constant presence of pain. In time we also lose the confidence that struggling will eventually end. If, however, the opponents are kept in close proximity, their suffering will be more intense; so will be their efforts to solve the problem, as well. We may expect a speeding up of the process, resulting in a quicker finalization.

Let’s call the last step of conflict resolution “intensification”, and let’s say we make the opponents meet each other daily for two hours, under the guidance of an NVC-trained facilitator. NVC as such may have failed before when some of the persons involved have learned the phrasing technique, but refuse to consequently actualize its meaning. The objective in intensification is to bring about a deeper understanding of the other’s needs, deep enough anyway to be able to propose how those needs may be met. The method consists of the following steps:
a) collectively attempting to phrase each person’s needs until they feel exhaustively understood
b) reciprocally proposing actions that are likely to meet our opponent’s need, until that person feels satisfied
c) harmonization of the proposed actions
d) written agreement that is binding to everyone involved. Its contents should be quantifiable in time and amount.

It is the duty of each party to find acceptable solutions for its (former) opponents, and the process must not get interrupted until we have come to a written agreement. As there is no deadline to the process, and as the meetings are happening daily, unavoidingly confronting us with the suffering of our neighbour (and our own), eating up a sensible amount of our precious time, with impacts on both work and private life, we cannot help but break our inner resistence. There is only one way out: achieving a consensus. Having truly understood this, suddenly there is motion.

Persistent resistence

What do we do, then, with those resisting to collaborate? – Well, the same as with those resisting to abide by the arbitral rule, now. Only would I propose to expand the range of tools into the realm of social control, before we go into exclusion from the Master list. Step by step we would be approaching friends to make them have a talk with the person in question; respected Aurovilians may later take the role of a coach to carefully steer the person into understanding the need for opening up. A denial of service and a temporary stopping of work engagement may further help with achieving the insight that society and individual are in a mutual relationship of dependency, which means that a society can only support the individual if the individual contributes sufficiently to its functioning. Only after it is made sure that someone will persist, regardless, is it justified to exclude people from citizenship in Auroville due to their involvement in a conflict. While it is not asked too much to deliver on the promise that we made when we came here by our own free will (to collaborate and constantly evolve), it is  important to note that imposing “solutions” produces the exact opposite: resistence and rigidity. We must avoid, by all means, what literally becomes an arbitrary rule.

Don’t sleep, there are snakes

If someone asserts something like, “X happens every time I apply Y”, or, “All elements in the C set are smaller than D”, the rules of reason allow for falsifying the claim by just one single exception.
Sentences like, “Man is greedy”, “Humans are selfish”, “We cannot change our ways”, fall under the same rule. The absoluteness with which those allegations are made cannot prove valid in the face of so many cases in which culture or personal decisions have expressed in totally different behaviour.

Discussing civilization and its effects and implications on an individual’s perception of reality, I use to refer to the lifestyle of indigenous peoples like the Mbuti Pygmees of Congo, and low-tech cultures like the Ladakh Tibetans. My intention in pointing at these tribes and cultures was neither in order to show ‘perfectness’, or to suggest you to copy their ways; nor would I say that “all primitive cultures are non-violent and have no problems”, as some conversational partners accused me of.
I compared certain older lifestyles with the currently world-dominating technological money-driven civilization to prove that many forms of thought, speech, and behaviour which most civilized people prefer to see as human nature (or as an irreversibly ‘advanced’ state of development, or as something ‘without alternatives’) are in fact a matter of circumstances, culture, and conscious decision. Which means behaviour can be changed as soon as individuals become aware of its roots, modes of operation, and effects on their lives. There are examples in abundance, of people who broke ‘the rules’ of the so-called greedy, selfish human nature, and who showed that there are alternatives to what most people regard as normal, inevitable, inescable, unavoidable, and necessary.

Very few forms of behaviour and values are based on human nature. Human nature could be regarded as a range of abilities we might exert depending on the situation and our value system rather than a strict rule. No such thing as a rule there. Every move of the mind, every single need can be overridden by willpower. Aside from looking into the examples I have given in the past I invite you to find further exceptions to anything you regard as self-evident, natural, understood, or normal. It’s fun, and you’ll be surprised, I promise.

Daniel Everett’s book “Don’t sleep, there are snakes: Life and language in the Amazonian jungle” is such an eye-opener. Everett, a former US missionary, travelled to Brazil in order to study the Pirahã language. The Pirahã are a people living along the Maici River, a tributary to the Amazon system. Their culture and language are unique in so far as they have no words for worries, colours, numbers, and time references. No such concepts do exist, nor do the Pirahã seem to be able to ‘get’ it. This is due to a mindset which Everett calls immediacy, meaning that a Pirahã speaker only refers to things he has experienced himself, or someone alive told him she did. Probable future events therefore can’t be told, while dreams count as experience and are considered as very real; so if a Pirahã says he had a conversation with a spirit, he actually means it. Pirahã can joke and lie, but tell no fictionary tales. The language is shaped in a way that allows exactly that what they enact as a culture.

What we can learn from this is, that language, culture, and reality are closely intertwined. They influence each other, depend on each other, and can be seen as expression of one another.

Questioning the Western idea of just one indivisible objective reality “out there”, Everett quotes Edward Sapir’s “The status of linguistics as a science” (1929):

“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection […] No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached.”

Figure out the implications for the validity of scientific discoveries, and particularly for unifying theories, and deterministic points of view.

Another thing we take for granted, yet have no reason to do so is ‘the rising curve’.
Most people do agree that man is curious by nature. We derive our concept of ascension from there. This is our motivation for research, discovery, and management of the physical world around us. Things have to improve and get bigger and better over time, especially the realm of me and mine. Is that innate to man?
Though the Pirahã are curious, too (they are interested in the outside world and their ways), the concept of the ascent of humanity is outlandish to them; they may use imported tools like boats or steel knives, but they refuse to manufacture them on their own i.e. implement new technologies into their cultural setting, even when they know how to do it; doesn’t keep them from getting along phantastically. Similarly they use next to no loan words when speaking. And in relation to the physical world, they think in terms of access and lax possession rather than ownership.

There are many more ways how the Pirahã differ from civilization as we know it, but instead of me telling you how to interpret Daniel Everett’s description of a remote traditional culture, why don’t you have a look inside this gorgeous book yourself?
Remember – this is neither about glorification nor about copying. It is about freedom, promoted by the falsification of the concept of coercion. There is no human nature forcing us to behave in a certain way, there is no determination. If we feel restraint and follow its order, it is just the story we live by. That’s what modern sociology and anthropology can teach us. Nothing more, nothing less.

What’s your story?

As I proceed with translating “The Ascent of Humanity” I almost daily stumble upon sentences reflecting deep insight into the fabric of reality. Stella Osorojos from the Santa Fe Time Bank called it “one of the most important books of the century”. She says she means it, and so do I. So please forgive me for coming back on elaborating on content from “Ascent” every now and then.

Many thinkers describe life as “living a story”, meaning that there is no such thing as an “objective universe out there” by the rules of which we have to live, and that the thing we call reality is not the actual thing of infinite properties, but merely a limited, abstract projection of, and withiin, our mind; what remains after so many filters of perception and selection. That projection is comparable to a map, a picture or a story which represents reality in the form of symbols (“The map is not the landscape”). Depending on the zoom level you prefer, the attributes you pick, the number of details you go into, the presentation format you choose, the symbols you design and the emphasis you set, the outcome will be very different from any other persons’ work. How many different maps of the world are there? How many interpretations of “Amazing Grace” or “The Count of Monte Cristo”? How many different opinions on any political matter, any piece of art, and every single person on earth? How many different definitions of God? And have you ever wondered why witnesses to a certain crime (or any other event) are talking of seemingly completely different things?
All those are stories, and so is life. For the way we look at it is arbitrary – and it shapes our actions depending on the choices we make, thereby changing also the repercussions we experience from outside.
Buddha called the way we usually look at, and live, our lives an ‘illusion’, J.Krishnamurti called it ‘image’, Adyashanti described it as ‘virtual reality’, and Villoldo actually called it ‘a story’. So does Charles Eisenstein who explains in Chapter VII-10 of his book how we are not victims, but creators of our fate; how there is no inescapable coercion, just surrender to stories; and how language, which is a story in itself, partakes in shaping the story of your life: 

Even naming these stories and observing them in operation already makes them less powerful. However, I have found it useful to deliberately undo them through the way I speak to myself and others. We can use words in ways that deny the stories that enslave us, and thus accelerate our freedom. For example, Marshall Rosenberg suggests rephrasing every “have to” sentence as “I choose to… because…”

Here is a personal example. I used to say, “Even though I hate it, I have to give grades.” When I rephrased it as “I choose to give grades because I am afraid I will lose my job if I don’t,” everything became much clearer. I realized that my job was much less important to me than my sense of integrity, which for me personally was violated by giving grades, and so I decided to leave academia. By thinking in terms of “have to” we surrender our power. The very words carry within them an assumption of powerlessness.

As I wrote in earlier essays, a gun to your head does not imply being unrejectably forced to do as you’re told. With or without that gun, you still have all the choices in the world, as long as you are willing to take the consequences. And please don’t ridicule my words there: it doesn’t mean you are to making stupid decisions in a dangerous situation. It just means you are free to do whatever fits into your value system, your story, if you are aware of that story. The less fear you have of forces threatening to overpower you, the more freedom there is for you, up to the point where there is no coercion at all.

You do not have to believe in the shamanic concept of physical-reality alteration by forces of the psyche to actually shape your personal reality the way it suits you best – although such forces might have an impact, who knows.
Unluckily most of the people I have been talking to hardly understand the concept or even reject it, and I could feel the underlying fear. People speak of freedom, individuality, and the power of love, yet don’t trust it much. And why would they, having been raised under a system where there is such a huge background fear, a survival angst about not fitting in with all the others, losing their job, losing their livelihood, sometimes even physical hurt. How would you not feel threatened and coerced into doing things you don’t like, such as working a degrading job, watching your back, and giving into all sorts of constraints.

The fact is: this is just one story to live by. If you equate an external attempt of force to a reaction of yours, then this story will shape your experience of reality, your life. The threat then, of course, feels very real. But as countless individuals have proven, other ways are possible. With the number of choices available to you, increasing by the degree you free yourself from unconsciously lived-by stories, life becomes better. By better I mean satisfying and fulfilled, as you then tend to make ever more choices by yourself, out of free will, instead of being forced to obey, subordinate, follow, give in, which equals to living someone else’s life. If you take the freedom of living a story where there is no irresistible pressure creates even more freedom. Freedom from (particularly fear), and freedom to (create your reality).
Living by the story of Western civilization, on the other hand, resembles being hunted down by all sorts of predators, getting driven from one crisis into another, until you eventually get trapped and die. You may even be lucky enough to count as one of the predators; but as long as you are unaware of survival-of-the-fittest being just a story – the story of our culture – you are a slave chained to a story like all the others. Gandhi put it best when he asked, “Don’t hate your oppressors. They need liberation, just like you.”

Leak’em all

If you are pissed with the arrogance with which governments kill people all over the world, either by their intelligence agencies, or their troops, and if you are pissed with them claiming at the same time that the publishing of the truth – written down by their own hands! – was a threat to so-called innocent individuals, let them know.

Let them know that, indeed, they, the governments of the world, are a threat to life on Earth, and that we, the people, will not look the other way. Let them know by researching relevant documents where ever you find them.

WikiLeaks is still online.
Type http://213.251.145.96/ , or http://savewikileaks.net/another-wikileaks-address/  , or http://www.wikileaks.info , or try various other addresses like .eu, .de, .ch, .at, etc.

Determinism

I must admit that I once was a guy who couldn’t believe in anything that was out of reach of science. If you couldn’t touch it, define it, extract it, manipulate it, categorize it, prove it, it couldn’t have been real. What a miserable existence that was, denuded of all the beauty and freedom of emergence.

Well… having had a lazy day I recently stumbled into someone else’s blog who discussed the subject of determinism, and people being unwilling to rethink their beliefs. I liked the observations she made. Information per se hardly ever changes anything. People will resist new information, no matter what, unless they feel the new truth in their bones, or unless it already agrees with their world view. So I agreed with my previous responder to that blog, that using a Socratic approach can do magic (although I prefer to just present my personal view as such, rather than manipulating people into finding what I find).

As for determinism, it isn’t all that new. As a matter of fact, it has been the basis of science and technology for over 400 years. If science is right about the determinism of the universe, then people’s behavior cannot be free as well. What’s revolutionary about that idea is that we now begin to apply it on humans, although, in our subconscious, we use to think we were exempt from the laws of nature. And maybe we think so because we feel that determinism might be a wrong concept.

The Cartesian world view in public perception is very hard to kill and people trained in rational thinking and rhetorics can talk you into believing it – if you ever doubted. But since ~1900, Heisenberg, Einstein, Gödel, Turing and many others have demonstrated that we cannot be sure about anything, or even everything. Determinism is dead. We just didn’t notice.

After all it is just another concept, another ideological (or religious, if you prefer) world view. People have come up with others, like eastern religions, buddhism, animism, chaotic organisation, chaotic non-organisation and so on. Both science and religion have their use in a certain area; both determinism and free will work within a certain frame, but then they fail due to applying a rigid method to a living process. That is what the scientists I mentioned proved with their methods, and what e.g. Buddhists agree with for 2500 years now after having applied their own methods, and why I say that determinism is yesterday’s jam.
Of course that is only my view, no more valid than anyone else’s view. I see no objective reality “out there”, truth being the same for everyone when in “fact” it isn’t.

Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear here. I didn’t intend to say that Heisenberg alone declared that we cannot know anything for sure, but that he, the persons I mentioned, and others like Schrödinger *together* paint the picture of a science different from the deterministic ideology of pre-20th century science. Taken as a whole their work unintendedly shows that science as such fails with explaining reality, especially in complex systems, and therefore will never be able to make true precise longterm predictions.

Why is it that the laws which science finds don’t fit reality and have to get redefined over and over again? Besides the complicated one (represented by Gödel &co.) there’s two easy parts:

a) The nature of a law (especially a scientific law) is generalization. You have to reduce individual things with infinite properties each to categories of similar things with a finite set of properties to which the law applies. There are two problems with that:
– The set of properties is of arbitrary choice. Look at the definition of “planet”. Look at any map.
– The rest which we discard as irrelevant but which represents an infinitely higher number of properties has a significance. Think of it when you listen to the weather forecast or when you drink a vitamins shake instead of eating an apple.
The categories we make up along with the limited-properties things create a picture that may follow the laws of science within a given frame set, but only if you don’t look too close. Taking that picture for real hence trying to apply the laws universally results in chaotic, unexpected response. Always.

b) Even if we do not look for rules and do not gain our knowledge from books, we can rely on our senses and say, “I see that thing. I measured some of its properties.” Still people disagree for a vast amount of reasons, one of which is that we cannot handle infinite amounts of properties. What then, following from that, is reality if not that what we choose? Isn’t it different for each person? What can we actually know for sure if we cannot completely know at least one single thing?

You do believe in determinism, but you do not believe your life is unalterably fixed, past, present, and future, do you? For, no matter if we are able to predict what’s to come, that is what “determined” means. Otherwise I didn’t get your reason for acting as responsible individuals. If I’d ask a person in a deterministic world why s/he is doing something, the answer I’d expect would be, “Because I cannot help but to follow the laws of the universe. There is no choice”; like a planet cannot willingly resist the gravity of its star. Without choice you could not act responsibly. You were just a puppet on a string, a programmed robot.
But, as a matter of fact, you are free to choose whatever option you prefer; even in a situation of being “forced” you are free to say: “Pull the trigger!”

Personally, I have given up on determinism as soon as I found out that it doesn’t work on me when I decide so; it also doesn’t hold for natural processes, if you take a closer look.
Instead, I (in short) think of an interdependent system of self-organizing complex subsystems, in which each element has options within a given frame, but each action changes the context by causing feedback, so we evolve while, and by, adapting to the constantly changing world we created and that created us. We are both free and bound. That’s pretty much what I see around me and inside myself – which results in active participation in the world’s affairs without desperately clinging to my ideas and wishes.

Waking Life

Just watched Waking Life, a film of 1 1/2 hours of philosophy upon life, death, communication, dream and reality.
The most amazing animated cartoon I ever saw.
No, that is the wrong term. Not animated cartoon. It is a painting alive! A Monet combined with a Warhol, running over the screen like water and oil. Nothing keeps shape for longer than a second, but the persons’ gestures and facial expressions all look so real.
Despite the irritating visual impressions and the partly mind-fucking explanations on what life is about I was able to keep concentration and understand language (English) and sense of what was said – which amazes me once again 😀

The story itself is short: A young man wakes up from a dream, only to find that he is in another dream. Time and time again. Trying to get a hint how to get out he meets people (bon-vivants, psychos, scientists, artists etc) who talk about their view upon things.

Good film for silent moments.