Our New Story – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Mon, 28 Sep 2020 19:37:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.6 https://www.kindredmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-Kindred-Black-Logo-square-32x32.png Our New Story – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org 32 32 What is a Flying Lead Change? https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/09/what-is-a-flying-lead-change/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/09/what-is-a-flying-lead-change/#respond Tue, 01 Sep 2020 16:04:32 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=26636 An excerpt from my soon to be released book Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living]]>

An excerpt from my soon to be released book Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living

On a hot, humid afternoon, a small dog-like creature nibbles on fruit suspended above a lush fern-covered ground. The thick jungle forest is bursting with sound, as this is a time when mammal life explodes with innovative evolutionary options. Nearby our earliest ancestor (also small) moves past, vying for the same sweet delicacy. For a moment the two lock eyes.

Fifty-six-million years later, in the same place we now call Wyoming, their descendants are working together in perfect harmony, human and horse, to move a herd of cattle off a northern slope into a grassy valley. As the horse gallops up a ridgeline, suddenly the topography changes, and the herd of cattle makes an abrupt shift. In response, the horse effortlessly executes what is known as a flying lead change—a gravity-defying maneuver that allows them to change balance and respond to the changing scenario without losing momentum or unseating their rider. Like this, horses have been our partner in successfully navigating change for thousands of years—the perfect power couple.

A flying lead change is the equestrian term for a high-level yet natural gymnastic move that happens at the canter, lope, or gallop (a horse’s fastest gait). In lay terms, when a horse canters, they lead with either their left or right set of legs. Say you were watching this cowboy gallop up the ridge. You might see their horse reach with their left front leg farther than their right; that would indicate a left lead. Horses will remain in a particular lead (or at least favor one) and continue their trajectory in that manner. It is only by external influences—a radical change in topography, for example—that the horse will change leads.

The flying lead change, or flying change as it is sometimes called, is when the animal, mid-flight, changes their lead from left to right, or vice-versa. At its finest, when you are astride a highly trained horse who deliberately executes the motion with balanced elegance, a flying change is astonishing to experience.

A masterful feat of gravity defiance that would be the envy of any prima ballerina or black belt, the flying change requires a culmination of complex and coordinated elements executed in one dynamic flow mid-air: attunement to change, connection, balance and equilibrium, a quiet mind, openness to new possibilities, tempo, a suspension of pattern while continuing momentum, and finally levitation to create space for a transition of balance and new direction.

Collectively we are facing the need for the same physics-defying maneuver. Our topography is radically changing, which requires us to change the way we lead our lives, families, and organizations. Such topography calls us to execute this change with similar mastery: attunement, care, presence, connection, mindfulness, openness to possibility, levity, suspension of old habits, maintaining momentum, levitation for a transition of balance into something new . . . humanity’s flying lead change.

We need more than policy change; we need a collective change of heart, a turn of equilibrium, a radical shift in the dynamics of how we do things. Together in this book we will explore the conditions, principles, and practicalities that will, in the midst of our ever-speeding lives, support us to change our lead mid-flight into a new way forward that will sustain us across the millennia as the horse has sustained itself for tens of millions of years.

This book is not about horses. It’s about you and me listening together for a way of living and leading that is both practical and wise, as taught by an ancient successful system.

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On Insight – By Joseph Chilton Pearce https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/08/on-insight-by-joseph-chilton-pearce/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/08/on-insight-by-joseph-chilton-pearce/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2020 19:39:05 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=26168 About On Insight, an original essay from Joseph Chilton Pearce (the essay is below this introduction) By Michael Mendizza To grasp the depth and critical significance of Joe’s narrative On Insight, some background is essential. As you may know, or will soon discover, Insight is a flash of perception and meaning, that emerges in realms beyond conditioned memory […]]]>

About On Insight, an original essay from Joseph Chilton Pearce (the essay is below this introduction)

By Michael Mendizza

To grasp the depth and critical significance of Joe’s narrative On Insight, some background is essential. As you may know, or will soon discover, Insight is a flash of perception and meaning, that emerges in realms beyond conditioned memory that expresses as knowledge and thought, these together being the classic and common definitions of intelligence. It is simple to see that one person’s ‘known,’ or the collective ‘know’ of a culture, is limited compared to the limitless potential implicit in the unknown. Pearce, Physicist, David Bohm, Krishnamurti and others agree, the often clever manipulation of limited conditioning is a capacity, not to be confused with the underlying ‘creative-intelligence’ that renders that cleverness possible. 

A clear way of understanding this differences is to appreciate that empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, do not exist as experiences in the realm of abstract thought and knowledge. As concepts, yes. As direct experiences, no. Empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, provide a foundation or context, a moral rudder or compass of appropriateness, that guide conditioning to express in ways that serve those experiences. Knowledge apart from these deeper and more fundamental experience has only itself to use as a subjective guide, a relative reference, and anything goes. 

Digging even deeper, the term Insight, implies three different experiences: conditioned memory expressing as thought, guided or not by even more fundamental experiences of relationship; fields of creation and meaning that exist outside of conditioning and thought; and Insight which, like lightening, is experienced as flash of meaning from the unknown, exploding with new meaning and possibilities, into the known. 

In today’s context, and central to all of Joe’s collected wittings, is the realization that what we call AI or Artificial Intelligence, and all the technologies involved, are not intelligence, rather a pervasive counterfeit, or CI, Counterfeit Intelligence. The same is true of conditioned memory and thought, with all its social degrees and cultural expressions. Conditioned thought – including all the conditioning imposed by compulsory schooling – on its own, and that is the key, without the guidance of empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, is equally counterfeit, dangerous, and easily mistaken and confused by all. 

Joe’s essay, On Insight, is a tip of the Insight iceberg, but a world-class tip it is. To explore further, please see The Limitations of Thought and Knowledge and Insight with David Bohm, in Touch the Future’s Academy. h

Michael Mendizza

Visit the virtual Joseph Chilton Pearce Library at the Touch the Future Academy here.

On Insight

By Joseph Chilton Pearce

No knowledge will spontaneously self-actualize in a child, not even basic survival-maintenance instincts. Regardless of the nature of the knowledge in question, appropriate environmental stimuli must be provided, and, for optimum results, at the appropriate developmental stage. This is nature’s Model Imperative.

For humans, the primary model is the mother, father, family, society; the secondary model is the physical environment. Denied the primary models, access to the secondary is impaired. The work of pediatrician Maria Montessori, (first Italian woman medical doctor) showed, however, that an intelligently designed environment could overcome severe primary deprivations. The earliest Montessori schools were not considered schools at all, but “houses for children”: three to six year olds who had suffered massive neglect in severely impoverished slum families. While the children were treated with love and respect in these Montessori houses, discipline, quiet, and order were hallmarks of life there.

By age five most of these children could read and write with some skill, a phenomenon attracting wide attention. Montessori insisted that these children had not been taught to read, nor to write, (and they wrote before reading.) The spontaneous writing and reading was no more an intentional part of the experiment than a myriad of other capacities and intelligences the children developed as well, all without “teaching”, which was the whole point.

Montessori’s life-work attempted to show that the child’s mind was “naturally absorbent” and would spontaneously unfold if given the appropriate stimuli in an environment of love and trust. She anticipated Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligence” theory by seventy years in her own theory of “nebulae”, various constellates of intelligence inherent in the nature of mind, which the child absorbed as and if provided the appropriate environmental stimuli.

The proposal of such “nebulae” received far less attention than her procedures that gave rise to an open- ended, rather than closed, form of stimuli. The nurturing environment must include, of course, all cumulative cultural survival experience, but it must include as well access to experience beyond such basic maintenance matters. The nature of this latter kind of stimulation could only arise from each moment of interaction with a child, to escape being but a reflection of the adult’s own limits, as found in our usual maintenance intelligence.

Mistaking information acquisition for education is a major error of contemporary thought. Knowledge, as Montessori pointed out, and David Bohm affirms, is an organic, lived process not itself necessarily translatable into “information” at all. And knowledge, what an unobstructed absorbent mind might experience and become, is open-ended. The problem lies in providing the child with a nurturing environment and open-ended, rather than closed, form of stimuli.

In the late 1970’s I received two lengthy letters from a young man in charge of five and six year olds in an Israeli kibutz. The young man had discovered that these children could do apparently impossible tasks, and with great zeal, to the extent that he, the caretaker, could suspend his ordinary beliefs about what was possible and not possible for them, and direct their actions accordingly, in whatever offered itself moment by moment.

He reported physical accomplishments completely beyond their stature and capacity, as well as intellectual achievements beyond their years. He discovered that children were constrained only by the nature of the belief patterns held by those in charge of them. On their own, they were unlimited. Without cues, suggestions, guidance and caretaking, however, they were lost. The young man expressed dismay and something akin to despair over the extent of this Catch 22 finding. (Somehow my replies and requests for more information were lost and I didn’t hear from him again.)

Bettleheim was right in saying you can’t lie to children since they pick up from you emotional (or implicate) energies as well as the physical signals sent. Children have been led into a-causal, or “nonordinary” phenomena, however, by the example set by a charlatan. In those cases, I know of, the charlatan was simply doing his thing as a magician, and was not aware of his acting as exemplar-model. The entire episode unfolded as a form of play, as with the Israeli chap and his kibutz kids.

The a-causal nature of such examples (metal bending particularly) point up physical processes beyond the norm, whereas the opening question implies moral-ethical issues of an order surely beyond our norm. The key to these higher potentials may lie within David Bohm’s concept of insight, a process discontinuous with Gardner’s multiple intelligences or Montessori’s “nebulae,” both of which refer to “morpho-genetic” fields of intelligence resulting from past human experience.

Insight implies a reservoir of potential that lies beyond all concepts held or information available. Gardner’s intelligences, or Montessori’s nebulae lie within the implicate order, the cumulative results of explicate order phenomena. Insight, I would suggest, springs from the supra-implicate order as stimulated by the implicate order in response to a need or passionate quest within the explicate realm. That is, insight is a function of pure potential, yet a response.

If we are to look to insight as source of a way out of current situations, we need to understand the function. Insight is akin to the so-called Eureka! experience, source of all bona-fide new concepts or “discoveries”, scientific, artistic, or spiritual. This has been the subject of intense study and speculation in our century. First, note that the individual concerned must be seized by a passionate quest for an unknown, and exhaust every avenue of “knowns” that are relative to the quest in any way.

Secondly, the Eureka! falls into the mind only after a “gestation” period following exhaustion of materials for an answer, and at a point of mental blankness, when the passionate quest for that answer has temporarily receded.

All recipients of Eurekas! claim that the answer was unthought and simply arrived out of the blue, and most attribute to it some numinous quality. Thirdly, the “content” or nature of a Eureka always proves discontinuous with the sum of all knowns and/or relative materials (information, techniques, capacities, etc.) gathered by the individual in the long quest leading to the breakthrough Eureka! itself. (That the idea breaking through need bear no resemblance to any of the so-called materials or information leading to it is a key point.)

Next, only a mind that has undergone the long discipline demanded by a passion strong enough to trigger a Eurkea! is in a position to receive that answer – though the answer itself lies at a discontinuity with any discipline, capacity, or knowledge leading up to it, and in spite of the fact that the Eureka! can break into that mind only at a momentary cessation of mental action.

Fourth, only a mind so disciplined by the long quest is in a position to “translate” the answer into the common domain when it arrives – and so realize it or give it life. Eurekas! usually appear in the mind in symbolic-metaphoric fashion which would be meaningless to any mind other than the one triggering the experience.

Fifth, and a final issue, the realized answer then creates its own environment. The new idea will be true to the extent it proves functional in the common domain, but, it proves functional by changing that common domain; as needed by its own accommodation within that domain. That is, the Eureka!, being causal, is never just an answer to an explicate passion, but enters into the creative process giving rise to the explicate order itself. Thus its “realization” creates a different environment than existed before that Eureka!

The Eureka! phenomenon produces as many non-translatable as translatable experiences, however, as many misses as hits. As a function it displays no “judgmental” aspects. It simply responds to passionate quest sustained long enough. Consider Bergman’s observation that each and every problem we face today is the direct and inevitable result of yesterday’s brilliant solutions.” This must, of necessity, include Eureka’s themselves.

That is, a new “truth” is true only as it can change the environment as needed for its appearance – which appearance is then true. (A day will come when the notion of quantums and such is seen as primitive and quaint, though these postulates function for us as well as phlogiston managed to keep the home fires burning in times past.)

Thus the horns of a dilemma: The nature of a quest gives rise to the nature of the insight given, though the final insight lies beyond the problem-quest giving rise to it, and indeed may be radically removed from the grounds of such birth. Of course Kekule “see” a chemical process, Hamilton mathematical, Poincare geometric, Einstein temporal-spatial, Gould an optical-physical one etc.

The nature of insights demand, and if successfully translated, bring about, a new milieu. And the nature of that milieu may be beneficial or demonic. Hamilton’s quaternions underlie virtually all modern mathematics by which we transform our world” in catastrophic form.

Kekule’s benzene ring is the foundation on which modern chemistry is based, giving us our 9,000 new carcinogenic chemicals yearly and an annual 100 million tons of toxic chemical waste, and so on. The realm of insight is “nonjudgmental”, non-qualitative, a creative function that rains on just and unjust equally. Discrimination, evaluation, quality, is a product of the human mind that experiences the results of random creativity. That creative realm lying beyond is not just potentially a-causal but a-moral.

To Bohm’s concept of insight, then, we must add another insight of his, made years ago: that beyond explicate, implicate, or supra-implicate, lies the “realm of insight-intelligence”. Insight as itself, being causal, gives newness; beyond the structures leading to it – but without qualification. Arriving “out of the blue” we accept an insight as sacrosanct and act on it with the passionate conviction of its trueness.

Which passionate conviction-action realizes the insight, gives it translation into flesh and blood – a flesh and blood profoundly affected by the nature of the translated insight. (It may take generations to discover that the results of our divinely inspired truth is destructive.)

Beyond insight as function, then, lies intelligence, which, to distinguish it from intellect or insight, is a movement of well-being. No insight originating from intelligence can act-back against its recipients in some slow-grinding of the gods. From the realm of insight-intelligence arises newness beyond the parameters of the reality giving rise to it, but only a beneficent newness, one without side effects. The truly good.

The traditional word for the good – that which acts only beneficially for all equally – is God. Leave God out of your equation, and you are stuck with your own limits, though they eternally appear under new dress.

Since the word God has been sullied past redemption, perhaps we might use Bohm’s Insight-Intelligence, which is, after all, a rather sublime term in its own right. But get that qualifying intelligence in there. Insight alone is not enough. Insight reflects our passions and may give us what we ask for – to our rue. Intelligence reflects our needs, discriminated from our wants, desires, and tragic limitations.

To open to intelligence as well as its instrument, insight, we need only acknowledge the limits of our intellect, and then acknowledge the unknown, but open-ended possibility of a greater intelligence behind the show, which is, after all, what Bohm’s dialogue process implies.

Then we would find not so much an “answer” to today’s dilemma – which would have its limitations – as a renewable source of a “deeper knowledge” our children, and all generations need as constant referent. None of us can explicitly display such knowledge as itself, since we can neither contain it nor produce it. We can, however, acknowledge that such a realm exists, simply awaiting our opening of self to it.

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Ecocentrism: What May Be Needed to Save Our Species https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/ecocentrism-what-may-be-needed-to-save-our-species/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/ecocentrism-what-may-be-needed-to-save-our-species/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 19:28:08 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=25971 How can we restore our heritages of nested, earth-centered living? The dearth of virtue in (tested Western) populations has been lamented and assumed to be part of the human condition (Doris, 2002; Miller, 2013) but a natural history indicates otherwise. From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become highly destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus […]]]>

How can we restore our heritages of nested, earth-centered living?

The dearth of virtue in (tested Western) populations has been lamented and assumed to be part of the human condition (Doris, 2002; Miller, 2013) but a natural history indicates otherwise. From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become highly destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus existence.

Discover Darcia Narvaez’s Evolved Nest Initiative’s resources, science and insights into becoming nest humans!

Humanity faces what have been called the four horsemen of the environmental apocalypse (Wilson, 1991), brought about in a matter of centuries: (1) massive toxification of water, air, soil, and food chains (e.g., Diaz et al., 2019); (2) degradation of the atmosphere, such as ozone depletion; (3) global warming (e.g., IPCC, 2014); and (4) the “death of birth”—the extinction of millions of species (Eisner, 1991; Kolbert, 2014). We are entering an unpredictable “hothouse earth” (Steffen et al., 2018).

Why have we reached these crises? One has to take an interdisciplinary approach to figuring out the answers. I recently wrote and published the paper, Ecocentrism: Resetting Baselines for Virtue Development, taking just such an interdisciplinary approach. The paper is a challenge to reset baselines for how we consider virtue and what it entails. Here is a brief summary of some of the main points:

We must understand who humans are, how they become human, and what can go wrong.

First, from ethology, anthropology, biology and neuroscience, we understand that humans are social mammals who are born particularly immature with a lengthy, decades-long maturational schedule. Early life experience shapes brain function in multiple ways, many of which we hardly understand. But we do know that we are more plastic and epigenetically shaped than our cousins the chimpanzees (Gómez-Robles et al., 2015) with early life experience influencing emotional development (Meaney, 2001), stress response (Lupien et al., 2009), and much more.

Second, as one of many inheritances beyond genes, humans evolved an intensive developmental niche for raising the youngThe common characteristics found around the world in small-band hunter-gatherer communities (our 99%), what my lab calls the evolved nest, include soothing perinatal experience, multiple responsive caregivers, extensive breastfeeding and affectionate touch, positive social support, self-directed free play with multi-aged mates in the natural world, and nature connection.

Third, neurosciences show that evolved nest components support normal development at all levels (e.g., neurobiological, social, psychological), laying the foundations for virtue, which depends on well-functioning systems (Narvaez, 2014).

Fourth, nest components are degraded in industrialized societies. Young children are often denied what they evolved to expect (the evolved nest components), which can undermine species-typical development.

Fifth, studies and accounts of societies that provide the nest, particularly nomadic foragers, the type of society in which humanity spent 99% of its genus history, indicate a more virtuous human nature than people in industrialized societies may think is normal or possible. The adults in these communities are generous, calm and cooperative (Ingold, 2005).

Sixth, the human nature that emerges from nest-support displays Darwin’s moral sense: social pleasure, empathy, concern for the opinion of the community, habit control and memory functions allowing comparison of past, present and future.  All these contribute to cooperative behavior, a key aspect of what helped our ancestors survive. But all of these appear to be diminishing in the USA (Narvaez, 2017). 

Seventh, original virtue displayed in our 99% differs from most scholarly writing about virtue. I say:

“Even before the ecological devastation underway, moral theory has often stayed away from discussing very deeply responsibilities to the natural world, perhaps addressing the rights of animals but not much more. Most virtue theories assume hierarchies, with humans (or particular humans) at the top of a pyramid of moral advantages and moral responsibility. But among humans, who evolved to be fiercely egalitarian (Boehm 1999), rigid hierarchy is a recent invention of particular societies, known as civilization, appearing only among some groups in the last 1% of human genus existence.[1] Indeed, civilization and industrialization have had continual battles trying to coerce individuals into abnegating their personal autonomy and submitting to obeying authority (Zerzan 2018).”

[1] Note: Civilizations came and went starting in the last 10,000 years or so. The genus Homo has been around for about 2 million (Fuentes, 2009).

Certainly, virtue is about flourishing—of self and community—but it is also about flourishing in the more than human community, within all circles of life, based in a deep awareness of humanity’s dependence on the rest of nature to survive (Deloria, 2006).

Eighth, the pillars of original virtue include relational attunement (engagement ethic), communal imagination, and respectful partnership with the natural world. All are apparent in human societies that provide the nest to their young, fostering connectedness throughout life. They maintain communal imagination through cultural practices that enhance ecological attachment and receptiveness to the natural world (Narvaez, 2014).

Ecocentric virtue is a human heritage from nested upbringings that enhance our receptivity and connection to the rest of the natural world. People who live in partnership with nature demonstrate capacities to interact respectfully and sustainably with its dynamism (Descola, 2013), even to the extent of living peaceably with predators as first-contact diarists astonishingly noted (e.g., Sale, 1990; Turner, 1994; Spencer, 2018). Much like the traditions of First Nation peoples around the world today, cooperative attitudes towards the natural world maintain the health of the biocommunity.

“The Native American paradigm is comprised of and includes ideas of constant motion and flux, existence consisting of energy waves, interrelationships, all things being animate, space/place, renewal, and all things being imbued with spirit” (Little Bear, 2000, p. x).

What can be done to shift back to our original, ecocentric virtue?

Understanding humanity’s past (and alternative present) is one place to start. All our ancestors, even in Europe, lived in partnership with nature until recent centuries. Deepening our sense of humanity’s existence beyond the writings of civilization can help expand our imaginations for what is possible (Narvaez 2019; Small 2008). Provisioning the evolved nest and building and maintaining nature connection throughout life are places to start.


Boehm, C. (1999). Hierarchy in the forest: The evolution of egalitarian behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Descola, P. (2013). Beyond nature and culture (J. Lloyd, trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Díaz, S., Settele, J., Brondizio, E., Ngo, H.T., Gueze, M. Agard, J.,…Zayas, C. (2019). IPBES summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Bonn, Germany: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Doris, J.M. (2002). Lack of character: Personality and moral behavior. New York, NY: Cambridge.

Eisner, T. (1991). Chemical prospecting: A proposal for action. In  F. H. Bormann & S.R. Kellert (Eds.), Ecology, economics, ethics: The broken circle (pp. 196-204). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fuentes, A. (2009). Evolution of human behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gómez-Robles, A., Hopkins, W. D., Schapiro, S. J., & Sherwood, C. C. (2015). Relaxed genetic control of cortical organization in human brains compared with chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 12, 14799-14804. doi: 10.1073/ pnas.1512646112

Ingold, T. (2005). On the social relations of the hunter-gatherer band. In R.B. Lee, R.B. & R. Daly (Eds.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers (pp. 399-410). New York: Cambridge University Press.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland,

Kolbert, E. (2014). The sixth extinction: An unnatural history. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Little Bear (2000). Foreword. In G. Cajete, Native science (pp. ix-xii). Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers.

Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445.

Meaney, M. J. (2001). Maternal care, gene expression, and the transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity across generations. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 24, 1161–1192.

Miller, C.B. (2013). Moral Character: An Empirical Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D. (2019). In search of baselines: Why psychology needs cognitive archaeology. In T. Henley, M. Rossano & E. Kardas (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive archaeology: A psychological framework (pp. 104-119). London: Routledge.

Narvaez, D. (2017). Are we losing it? Darwin’s moral sense and the importance of early experience. In. R. Joyce (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy (pp. 322-332). London: Routledge.

Narvaez, D. (2020). Ecocentrism: Resetting baselines for virtue development. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

Shepard, P. (1998). Coming Home to the Pleistocene (Shepard, F.R., Ed.). Washington D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books.

Small, D.L. (2008). On deep history and the brain. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D.,… Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018). Trajectories of the earth system in the Anthropocene,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (33) 8252-8259; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810141115.

Wilson, E.O. (1991). Biodversity, prosperity, and value. In  F. H. Bormann & S.R. Kellert (Eds.), Ecology, economics, ethics: The broken circle (pp. 3-10). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Zerzan, J. (2018). A people’s history of civilization. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House.

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Nursing Narratives: Deep Listening, Safe Sharing, And Truth-Telling As Paths To Systemic Change https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/nursing-narratives-deep-listening-safe-sharing-and-truth-telling-as-paths-to-systemic-change/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/nursing-narratives-deep-listening-safe-sharing-and-truth-telling-as-paths-to-systemic-change/#respond Fri, 19 Jun 2020 03:26:26 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=25333 Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits […]]]>

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. 

– Frederick Douglass
​in a letter to an abolitionist associate, 1848

About Nursing Narratives

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Our first narrative of who we are is shaped by the evolutionary act of breastfeeding. Eye-gazing, skin-to-skin holding, touch, nourishing milk that changes its composition with our needs, wire our neurobiolgy for peace by reassuring us we are welcome and safe. It’s impossible to miss the connection between our lack of early bonding through breastfeeding and our confusion and denial over who we are as a human family. In her research on our Evolved Nest, Darcia Narvaez points out we are far from our evolutionary design as peaceful, cooperative species, and are now an atypical species degrading our environment on a path of extinction. We don’t remember who we are, and we’re not listening to each other.

Not listening, making excuses to not listen, dedication to perfectionism, busyness, and more turn out to be well-defined characteristics of white supremacy culture, which are also aspects of toxic masculinity, patriarchy, colonialism, malignant narcissism and Dominator Culture. Nonprofit organizations, with 83 percent white leadership, and the top 315 American nonprofits at 90 percent, are noted in social science research to be bastions of white supremacy. (See characteristics of white supremacy in nonprofit culture.)

In the Nonprofit Quarterly’s How White People Conquered the Nonprofit Industry, Anastasia Reesa Tomkin writes: “White leaders, all 83 percent of them as the statistic goes, are still refusing to defer to the leadership of people of color, even when their clients are predominantly people of color. Some might compare white nonprofit CEOs to slave masters who considered themselves ‘good,’ only looking after the best interests of the plantation by overseeing labor and resources.”

Meet the Men Of ROBE: Standing At The Intersection Of Fatherhood, Infant Mortality, Breastfeeding And Social Justice

The reflective tale below recounts my experience last June at the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s 2019 Ninth Annual National Breastfeeding Conference and Convening, where I witnessed the intentional, ongoing transformation of a mostly white professional, national nonprofit toward an equitable, diverse, and inclusive powerhouse. It here that I met the Wisdom Council members of Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere, ROBE, who were featured in Kindred’s Father’s Day 2020 series, Meet the Men of ROBE: Standing at the Intersection of Breastfeeding, Infant Mortality and Social Justice.

The series also features an interview with Kimarie Bugg, DNP, who, as the founder of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, ROSE, helped to both create ROBE – and guide the USBC’s often intense and emotional process.

The feature also shares my experience in August 2019 at the Center for Worklife Law’s Breastfeeding Policy Summit, an Advanced Activists Only event, in my view, where we were educated in “playing the game” of systemic change through lobbying as nonprofits, speaking the language of partisan politicians. Through the social science research over 25 years, we learned the real barriers to workplace breastfeeding support: class cluelessness and toxic masculinity.

This tale of my visits to bi-coastal breastfeeding conferences last summer shares how deep listening, safe, brave spaces, and radical truth-telling make systemic change possible, maybe even inevitable.

“In my dream, my breastfeeding dream, I see rivers of breastmilk flowing down the streets of these distressed communities. Healing, bonding, nursing and making whole what was dissected and dismembered. My vision for men is that they benefit from supporting and protecting the breastfeeding experience in ways that help them to reclaim their humanity. My vision for ROBE, is that neighborhoods, communities, cities across this country take advantage of and benefit from this assemblage, this collection, in ways that matter to those communities.”


Nursing Narrative Sections

Transforming White Power Structures Through Deep-Listening, Safe Spaces and Radical Truth-telling

Class Cluelessness, Corporate Goddesses, and White Supremacy Barriers to Breastfeeding

Re-entry, Recaps, and Rants

Meet the Men of ROBE: Standing at the Intersection of Breastfeeding, Infant Mortality, and Social Justice


Transforming White Power Structures Through Deep-Listening, Safe Spaces and Radical Truth-telling

The first African-American woman elected to the USBC board of directors, Bugg shared with Kindred, “There was a lot of crying and stomping and walking out of the room, and hugging, and more crying.  Lots of that.  There were times where folks truly wanted to walk out.  There were times where feelings were hurt and toes were stepped on.  It was difficult for, you know, the oppressor never wants to release power, and especially when you have no idea that you’re holding the power.  It’s the white privilege… Until you understand or are presented with the realities, then you’re not really expected to be willing to make these changes.  Some people, after addressing these concerns, were not able to make these changes, but a majority of the folks were.  That’s why it took several years, but they have truly made a phenomenal transition.” (Listen to the interview and read the full transcript here.)

– Kimarie Bugg, DNP, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere

One year ago, in a rare non-celestial event, I abandoned my chronically inflamed earth body’s orbital balance between bed-desk-garden-kitchen and cautiously drove three hours towards Bethesda, Maryland, and an international convening of breastfeeding professionals, academics and cultural change makers. Most of the careful planning for the three-day event was internal, with Krishnamurti’s perspective on illness as “just another state of consciousness” guiding my intentions to acknowledge and release any sabotaging narratives my brain offered, while reassuring my body I was listening, and all needs would be met. 

“You don’t look sick,” is a normal response to autoimmune-challenged people, which is why many of us don’t talk openly about our illnesses, but we do talk with each other. The AI strategy for navigating a break from safety begins with deep listening. Inattention, not listening, left unheard needs of living tissues whimpering towards eruptions, breakdowns, and rage. Simple attention and patient curiosity are often the cooling balm needed. AI’s ongoing lesson, and one I took my time accepting: any physical, mental or spiritual ambition begins and ends with the living needs of the body. These mindful meditation and deep listening practices also serve my ongoing inner work to understand my own enculturated racism, as I discovered last summer. (See Rhonda Magee’s The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness.)

The first United States Breastfeeding Committee conference I attended in 2014 explored “Transforming Barriers into Bridges: Cultivate Your Community Leadership.” The USBC website states 2014 was the first year the conference focused on “developing capacity and commitment to achieving racial equity in breastfeeding support.” The USBC, a nonprofit coalition of over 100 organizations, signaled in this statement they were at the beginning of an organizational deep listening process. By 2019, the USBC’s Ninth National Breastfeeding Conference and Convention demonstrated – often intensely and unnervingly – an internal sea change with immeasurable, potential impact, a culturally epic phenomenon worth abandoning my preferred hermetic life to witness.

The first day of 2019’s academic presentations withered my spirit. In my hotel room I studied the labyrinth in the shape of a brain ten stories below my window and wondered if I’d made a mistake. By the second day, the energy in the ballroom accelerated, subtle at first, with ongoing finger-clicking responses and emphatic vocal agreements echoing around the room as presenters revealed structural and institutional racism, sexism, and gender-inequality as insidious and pervasive barriers to infant and mother wellness.

“This isn’t the same conference,” I whispered in the hotel’s lobby to Laurel Wilson, a USBC board member at the time and a Kindred International Editorial Advisory Board member. 

“And this is on purpose,” she smiled and replied cryptically. I promised to follow up with her after the conference and wondered to myself on the way back to my seat how such an organizational shift could be purposefully engineered.

Raw emotion coupled with stark truth-telling, not features of the USBC’s mostly white privileged professionals’ conferences of the past, continued into break-out sessions. In a Mid-Atlantic Regional circle, where I sat with my Virginia representatives, Lourdes Santaballa, a lactation consultant from Puerto Rico, quipped with the certainty of an oracle, “You think we’re unique in Puerto Rico, we’re not. Everyone needs to get ready.” (In October 2017, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Lourdes founded Alimentación Segura Infantil, an Infant and Young Child feeding program focused on increasing breastfeeding, leadership and training in marginalized communities in Puerto Rico.) 

Whatever intentional changes the USBC board began over the past four years, the result appeared to be a living container for the expression of unmet human needs. The experience felt intimidating at times with its managed anger, but alive in its honesty. A few conference attendees, waiting for their turn at open mikes, simply declared their fury at “white, straight men.” As the wife and mother of white, straight men, I had to sit with that one.

Clues of evolution in action were ubiquitous. A small note in the conference program stated, “USBC welcomes and values all types of knowledge, including academic, lived experience, communal, and beyond.”

“And beyond…” There was room for more growth, insight, and embracing of living energies still to come.

Instead of intellectually distant and self-congratulatory white power structures dictating a clinically-detached agenda, the living intelligence of human needs, and the meeting of those needs, appeared to be welcome and heard. In a few, short years, the USBC’s Annual National Breastfeeding Conference and Convening began a transformation of itself from a mostly white, professional, female event, to a vastly more inclusive, diverse, alive, steely-eyed, activist-driven, international gathering.

It would be eight months before former USBC board member, Kimarie Bugg, DNP, would share with me the inside story of USBC’s revolutionary change, initiated by Bugg and her nonprofit, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, ROSE, with “a lot of crying and stomping.”

The first African-American woman elected to the USBC board of directors, Bugg shared with Kindred, “There was a lot of crying and stomping and walking out of the room, and hugging, and more crying.  Lots of that.  There were times where folks truly wanted to walk out.  There were times where feelings were hurt and toes were stepped on.  It was difficult for, you know, the oppressor never wants to release power, and especially when you have no idea that you’re holding the power.  It’s the white privilege.

“So, we had to have those conversations, and when you know better you do better.  I talk a lot in my little presentations about Johari’s Window.  I know what I know, I know a little bit about what I don’t know, and I know nothing about what I don’t know.  So, if something has always been this normalized and you do not see in your base anything about slavery and Jim Crow and redlining and about toxic dumps being put in neighborhoods and then segregation and all of those types of things.

“If you’ve never had any need to focus on those things, then again, it’s like Pollyanna, you just have those rose-colored glasses and that’s it. For women or people of color, we’ve never had that privilege and so this was a time when we got people into the room to have those conversations just basically to help people to understand: this is my reality…

The Madonna of the Trail, an historical marker of one of the first Eastern stops along the National Old Trails Road leading to the Santa Fe Trail, and the American dream of colonizing the West.

“Until you understand or are presented with the realities, then you’re not really expected to be willing to make these changes.  Some people, after addressing these concerns, were not able to make these changes, but a majority of the folks were.  That’s why it took several years, but they have truly made a phenomenal transition.” (Listen to the interview and read the full transcript here.)

An independent nonprofit coalition of “more than 100 organizations that support its mission to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States,” the USBC listened to Dr. Bugg and ROSE. They listened, eventually.

On the third morning of the 2019 USBC conference, I left the stiffing, energetic build-up in the ballroom for a walk outside the Hyatt building where, oddly enough, I was greeted on the sidewalk by a formidable, 18 foot-tall granite statue of a pioneer woman holding an infant to her breast and small child by the hand at her feet. A plaque declared her to be the “Madonna of the Trails.” The 1929 statue marks the first portion of the National Old Trails Road leading to the Santa Fe Trail, and the American dream of colonizing the West. Twelve monuments were erected in each of the states the National Old Trails Road passes, shares the online Bethesda Magazine.  

What’s her story now? I wondered. After three days of immersion in cultural equity lens perspectives, every story, symbol, and statue’s skirt seemed lifted high enough to glimpse more of the hidden-in-plain-sight truth about its origins. I snapped a photo of the statue and shared it with the women at my table. Darla Birch and Kirsten Kelley, both from the National WIC Association, kindly studied the photo with me.

Is this statue a symbol of all women, mothers, trail-blazing through uncharted territory, like the women in this conference room? Or is this a white woman who is going along with the white dominator narrative to colonize a Native American occupied land while breeding more dominators? What is her story now? Birch and Kelly studied the iPhone photo, shook their heads and decided the she was both. 

During the last moments of the conference, still considering the implications of concretized, conflicting cultural narratives, I looked up from my laptop to find the ballroom stage filled with black men: black men advocating for breastfeeding. One of the men from Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere, ROBE, declared:

Calvin Williams, CLC

#ReachingRnR #PeachMilk #Latchville #MilkJuleps #FeedingLikeaQueen #BluesCityBoobs #MSSipItUp #MusicCityMilk #StayWokeAndBf #GeauxBreastFriend #BlkBfing #BostonMilkParty #NotOnMyWatch #BlacktationDiaries #ConcreteROSE2019 #savingtomorrowtoday #BMHW19 #gotswampmilk #PeachMilkUSBC 2019

Posted by Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere on Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Calvin Williams’ presentation at the USBC’s 2019 conference.

“My vision for breastfeeding, is a vision for my people. Not all black people are struggling. And that has to be said because there are inane, ridiculous statistics out there like, ‘there are more black men in prison than on college campuses.’ Give me a break. But too many of my brothers and sisters are hurting each other, themselves, their families and their communities because THEY are so hurt, confused, distressed. Dissected and disconnected from their history and their own self-worth. 

“In my dream, my breastfeeding dream, I see rivers of breastmilk flowing down the streets of these distressed communities. Healing, bonding, nursing and making whole what was dissected and dismembered. My vision for men is that they benefit from supporting and protecting the breastfeeding experience in ways that help them to reclaim their humanity. My vision for ROBE, is that neighborhoods, communities, cities across this country take advantage of and benefit from this assemblage, this collection, in ways that matter to those communities.”

In 22 years of breastfeeding activism, I had not seen or imagined this moment.  My knees gave out, my body’s cue that it was impressed and needed to go into deep-listening mode, and I sat down, still applauding with the audience.

These guys are listeners. Their language, presence and love for humanity roiled the room. The last group of presenters yielded their time to ROBE’s Wisdom Council members. Everyone needed to hear more and acknowledge this final arrival at our destination: someone knew how to listen to needs and had a plan to meet them.

In the lobby after their presentation, I met the ROBE Wisdom Council team and asked for an opportunity to bring their stories to Kindred. Kevin Sherman shook my hand and pointed to Wesley Bugg, “He’s our media guy.”

We agreed to talk soon without realizing we would run into each other again, and soon, at the University of California at Hasting’s Center for Worklife Law’s Breastfeeding Policy Summit in San Francisco. At this small summit of invited attendees, we would hear from Joan C. Williams, author of White Working Class:Overcoming Class Cluelessness and the most read article ever on Harvard Business Review, “What So Many People Don’t Get About the US Working Class.” Williams and her worklife law center summit would teach us about another largely unacknowledged -ism that stood in the way of normalizing breastfeeding in America: classism.

At this summit, two months after the USBC conference, I would witness another powerful moment of collective humanity interrupting a well-laid agenda with demands for being heard, the transformation of a Southern lobbyist’s worldview in this moment, and learn the social science language needed to appeal to power-wielding partisan legislators… all while Corporate Goddess statues loomed outside of our 25th floor view of San Francisco’s financial district, daring the world to discover the hidden truth beneath their draped, ethereal forms.

Class Cluelessness, Corporate Goddesses, and White Supremacy Barriers to Breastfeeding

In July 2019, I left for a long vacation with my family to California, with plans to say goodbye to them in Dillion Beach in August, where a friend would then carry me to the Center for Worklife Law’s Breastfeeding Policy Summit in San Francisco. Traveling three hours to the USBC conference in Maryland was a test of my own deep-listening skills, but traveling with my family across country was a test of theirs. We were good at this by now as, years earlier, my son and I cared for my husband through cancer and, after my subsequent diagnosis, they became attuned to my needs to pace myself while managing AI language (symptoms). With forced practice over time, we are now proficient at moving as a well-attuned pack.

While both bi-coastal events’ goals were normalizing breastfeeding in America, their tone and scope contrasted starkly. In a USBC break-out session, worklife law experts shared stories of human reproduction rights violations in the workplace, including “mooing outside of lactation rooms,” and a statistic that is giving pause to employers: a 600% increase in lawsuits against employers for workplace violations. The Center for Worklife Law’s laser-beam focus on workplace discrimination, legislative advocacy, partisan messaging and “Playing by the Rules” guidelines for lobbying as a nonprofit, felt like an Advanced Activists Only agenda.

Jessica Lee, JD, a presenter at the USBC conference and attorney with the Center for Worklife Law, co-authored the center’s report Exposed: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers, in 2018. The report analyzes breastfeeding legal cases from the last decade to document patterns of discrimination and new data on the scope of existing state and federal laws to protect against workplace discrimination. 

The center found that 27.6 million women of childbearing age don’t have the basic protections needed by all breastfeeding workers. 

In a Kindred interview, Joan C. Williams, the center’s founder and iconic women’s rights author, blames the lack of workplace support on a more insidious cultural -ism: classism, whose roots in Toxic Masculinity are the real barrier to workplace change.

“We tend to associate work-family conflict with women because they are kind of on the front lines, but it really goes back to how we define the ideal worker and in far too many workplaces today, we still define the ideal worker as someone who takes no time off for childbirth, no time off for family caregiving and no time for breastfeeding. Who does that describe? You know, it certainly does not describe most women. It describes someone with a man’s body and men’s traditional life patterns and even one of the things that we’ve seen over the past since I’ve been working on this issue for nearly 40 years,” said Williams.

“One of the things that’s really dramatic is that there’s been a shift among younger men in what they see as being a good father. Men in my generation, I’m in my 60s, thought that they were great fathers because they changed a diaper. But younger men really are kind of where my generation of mothers were, many of them. They see being a good parent is involving daily care of children and they’re willing to take some career hits to accomplish that, but there’s another group of men, many of them older, some of them equally young, who just don’t see that as being a good father, they see that as being an ineffective breadwinner and an ineffective man. 

So, this is really a conflict among men in the workplace, by people who have defined their lives by being that ideal worker. They see that as the only way to be a real man and an effective person. They are really what is blocking change.” (Listen to and read Kindred’s interview with Williams here.)

The center’s social science research findings and recommendations, well founded and presented, seemed to push the birthright of humanity – to have our needs met, to become the healthy, connected, peaceful species we were meant to be – into a madhouse of smoke and mirrors. Say these magic words to this legislator in the South to get him or her to listen to you, but say these if you’re in the West or talking with Democrats. This was grown up stuff, I admit, and that Williams and her team could enter this realm, stay sane, and report back helpful insights deemed them modern shamans of sorts, I figured.

Why don’t humans see themselves as biological beings and create public policy to serve life? Our life? Our children’s lives? Why do we not use models like the Social Wealth Index to help us understand real wealth? Why don’t we see ourselves as one family, in one world, as Kindred’s slogan pronounces?

This is Kindred’s own nonprofit mission, to provide a safe space for thought-leaders, researchers, professionals and parents, anyone, to question our atypical species’ ongoing degradation of our environment and find ways to bring to life the Evolved Nest, our human birthright coded in our living DNA.

“Children expect the Evolved Nest, provided by their community, and without it become dysregulated physiologically, psychologically, socially, mentally and spiritually,” says award-winning, developmental psychologist and researcher, Darcia Narvaez. “Too much of child treatment today has to do with minimizing babies’ needs, coercing children into shadows of their true selves, leading to societies filled with stress reactive people focused on self-protectionism instead of openness, with limited communal imaginations who are caught up in addictions of various kinds, including work. All these keep us from the social joy and wellbeing our ancestors experienced.” 

As Laurel Wilson shared in her TED Talk last year, human milk is the food that evolved humanity.

Conference agenda and Corporate Goddesses

I considered the summit’s handouts and looked out of the city-scape window where Muriel Castanis’oxymoronically-named “Corporate Goddesses” echoed ancient and modern Western dominator mythology by profanely marrying toxic masculinity and the sacred feminine, and held court over San Francisco’s financial district.

“We need to have a check-in with the women of color in the room to see if they are feeling safe,” said a voice from the opposite end of the small, packed conference room. And just like that, the living energy of humanity entered, with each woman sharing what was alive in her at that moment, what living wisdom needed to be heard, some through tears, some through anger. I listened to the check-ins as deeply as I could, but noticed, within my own being, I did not feel unsafe. My body did not contain a somatic experience of being Black in America. My heart sank and I cried.

What happened? I asked summit coordinator, Jessica Lee, months later. “The USBC conference was joyful and felt like we were all in it in a level that I had not felt before. People seemed to recognize the harms they had done and the new direction that was needed,” she shared in a phone call.

“Going into the summit I felt like we were all there. I entered into the room thinking that we were in a safe space but realized that we all might not feel safe and not be of one mind. How can we lift each other up, feeling that was deeply unsettling? Coming out of it, I realized that the folks who needed to hear the message, heard it very deeply. That moment had a great impact on some of the participants and the organizations they lead.”

One of the participants impacted by this deep-listening moment began recounting her experience in a phone call before pausing and saying, “I can’t tell you the truth of how this affected me without risking my career as a lobbyist in the South. People here don’t understand what I’m doing, advocating for black and poor communities impacted by their legislative processes. They think I’m playing the white power game, and I am.”

She agreed to tell her story, anonymously, and as she did, the interrupted call for safety at the summit revealed a deeper, darker dimension.  “I walked away from the summit reflecting upon my role in lobbying and how my success is based on how I have connections to whiteness, white supremacy and white power structures.

“I realized that I was giving myself a pat on the back for being a white savior without including the voices of people impacted by the legislation passed. When I returned to my state, we did change the organization’s mission to include a statement of solidarity, but some people left, and some people said, ‘That’s cute, but what does it really mean?”

I asked her if she had a plan for moving forward in her new state of conflicted awareness? “The answer is to keep doing it, but instead of cherry-picking legislation with a bunch of lawyers, to make sure I am building community, to meet needs, to make sure their voices are truly heard, while also keeping them from harm. It is my proximity to power that allows for the legislation to be considered. We need to have a bigger, internal conversation as an organization. We need to help our board and members.

“We will now be shifting with more intention and insuring everything that we do has intention and is more informed by community and examining how decisions are made and how much power we are allowing communities to have to push us in a direction they want to go. Understanding the class dynamics is also really important, because there are people who cannot read, barely make it to the poverty line in our state. They need to be heard as well.

“The summit helped me walk away with more clarity. I previously felt like I got it, but now I’m sitting in more of a place of learning and listening and pushing myself to do the work and do better. It wouldn’t have happened if not for that moment in the room, the call for a safety check, and listening. It was powerful.”

I left San Francisco with a growing list of questions for the Wisdom Council of Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere. Six months later, in a Zoom call in preparation for Kindred’s series on ROBE, I asked Wesley Bugg, and his mother, Kimarie Bugg, who were at the summit, what happened? We agreed that to us, the pausing of the well-oiled agenda to welcome the living energy of human needs was remarkable. 

“I definitely think that it was wonderful,” said Kimarie Bugg in Kindred’s interview this spring. “What happened was, it was time to move on when we were talking about some things that were really felt deeply, particularly they were felt by women of color. But then again, as you mentioned, someone in the room said, “But we’re not really feeling easy and good with where we are with this last agenda item.”  So, it felt good to be able to jump out of the ivory tower and to recognize that everybody truly had feelings and concerns and we weren’t going to move on without at least addressing those, or at least letting someone say something.  

“There were some tears in the room because some people specifically asked what do you have to say, because they felt that there was some serious emotion in their faces.  It was a great time.  It was good. It would be fabulous for more meetings to be like that.  Again, when people are able to get in touch with how they’re feeling in order to affect policy, that’s going to impact so many other people.  

Kimarie Bugg helped to explain my own lack of somatic response, courtesy of my white privilege, to the initial trigger for the safety check-in. “This gets extremely painful for many of us.  I’ve held many African American women in my arms who have lost babies to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and grandmothers who’ve lost daughters when they were having babies in childbirth, and that takes a toll on you.  It takes a toll to be the mother of a black son in America, just always concerned about, are they going to make it home safe, for many reasons.  It really felt good for that organization to allow that space so that everyone could go around and check in just for a few minutes, and everybody needs to do that.”

Re-entry, Recaps, and Rants

As she promised, on my return to Virginia, Laurel Wilson, USBC’s former board member who witnessed firsthand the organization’s ongoing evolution from a white professional power structure to a more consciously inclusive coalition, and who is also a Kindred International Advisory Board member, emailed her thoughts:

“My board work on the USBC was possibly the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding service I have had the opportunity to be involved with in my 27 plus year career. As I started my service, the organization was making an intentional shift to not only embrace the ideals of equity, inclusivity, and diversity but to actually look like the lactation world we all worked in,” Laurel wrote. 

“Over my three years, we became an organization that worked diligently to have the board, staff, and membership reflective of breastfeeding/chestfeeding communities in the US. It was refreshing to attend conferences and serve on a board where communities of color and LGBTQIA communities in the parental/child health field were present, heard, and honored. We focused on addressing the difficult issues of racism, implicit and explicit biases, not just in the lactation community but in our organization itself. I feel as though this organizational shift will improve the landscape of lactation.”

While the USBC’s transformation is commendable, it comes at a time when research is revealing nonprofits to be bastions of and vehicles for racism, white privilege and white supremacy. A Chronicle of Philanthropy article states:

“The fact is, we cannot easily or perhaps ever fully outrun this issue unless we embrace a hard truth: Racism and its impact are bright, red throbbing tributaries in America’s body politic.

“It is not a malady that swoops down on our country like a bad cold or an ill wind. It is part of the bones and the architecture of our country and has been since America’s inception.

“Confronting this hard truth and, more important, reducing the effects of racism and inequality require that we at foundations and nonprofits address institutional barriers throughout society. It also requires introspection — from those in leadership positions, especially — to acknowledge and understand the roots and reality of interpersonal intolerance and division.”

Sadly, this year’s USBC conference, along with most conferences, was cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown. The USBC’s website’s tools for equity, diversity and inclusion education are vast, and a great starting point for their members and the public. With 100 organizations in their network witnessing their progress, it will be interesting to discover if their process is replicable, sustainable, or even welcome in state and local coalitions.

Later this spring, as our nation began to emerge from the shock of COVID-19’s deadly sweep, many thought leaders, like Kimberly Seals Allers, also a presenter at the Center for Worklife Law Summit, began to wonder if our quarantine time could result in rethinking our values? Perhaps the forced pattern interrupt of our unsustainable daily lives could result in attuning our attention to our own needs? Other countries have healthcare, paid leave, maternity and paternity leave, midwifery models of care, that also support breastfeeding goals of families. Why couldn’t American people have these social safety-nets too?

Oh, that’s right, because activists need to tread lightly on the toes of legislators entrenched in white power – while black mothers die in three times greater rates than white mothers – by learning language that will not alienate them, and lobbyists need to learn to function with existential, internal conflict torn between placating white supremacists and serving communities of color impacted by legislation. Meanwhile, American workers are held to a lethal Toxic Masculinity Model that guides them into early graves, while we spend more money on healthcare than any nation on earth and have the worst health outcomes, highest maternal and infant mortality rates, and the next generation wonders, maybe for the first time, what does sustainable living look like? Is it too late?

And don’t get me started on those damned Corporate Goddesses…

Meet the Men of ROBE: Standing at the Intersection of Breastfeeding, Infant Mortality, and Social Justice

On May 20, 2020, Mothers Jones published the article, Breonna Taylor Is One of a Shocking Number of Black People to See Armed Police Barge Into Their Homes, describing how police officers barged into Breonna Taylor’s home on March 13, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, in the middle of the night and discharged a spray of bullets that struck and killed the 26-year-old EMT. 

Six days later, on May 26, 2020, George Floyd, and unarmed African American man arrested for passing a bad check, was murdered by white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who held his boot on Floyd’s neck after Floyd begged for breath and cried out for his dead mother to help him. The murder of Floyd, while he was handcuffed and face-down on the pavement, captured in a nine minute-long, now viral video, sparked protests for justice, beginning in Minneapolis the day after his death and expanding in over 400 cities throughout all 50 U.S. states and internationally.

There are no words in me for this moment, only the heavy acknowledgement of the song humming ceaselessly under my own rage. It is grief. And perhaps a hope that all activists stepping forward will enter into a deep-listening practice with their own bodies so that we all may go the distance this historic moment will require of us. May we all be blessed with family and friends to hold us up so we can move through this transition together as a well-attuned pack.

In June, one year after meeting ROBE’s Wisdom Council members at the USBC’s national breastfeeding conference, Kindred’s social justice team wrapped up our review of 100 pages of transcripts and six hours of audio interviews with ROBE and Kimarie Bugg, while, thirty miles from my Virginia farm, Confederate statues – a cultural symbol of a permanent deaf ear to human needs – were being dragged through the streets, dumped in lakes, and beheaded in the former capital of the South.

The Frederick Douglass quote at the opening of this post warns, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Douglass wrote this in a letter to abolitionists in 1848.

Maybe we’ve met our limit as a human family, of what we will endure. Maybe we will start listening now, and make a condition of future leadership good listening skills. David Metler, Kindred’s social justice editor, often quotes Atul Gawande, cultural “change happens at the speed of trust.” How long will it take to build the trust needed for lasting change?

David, and Reshma Grewal, Kindred’s Spirit-in-Resident research student from the University of California at Santa Barbara, sat down with ROBE’s Wisdom Council members this spring with the intention of discovering how their deep-listening, trust-building, safe space-creating, and truth-telling strategies allowed them to train fathers to be advocates for breastfeeding and healthy birth in the African American community. Their personal stories, and how they transformed themselves first, before serving their communities, provides a living model for sustainable social justice reforms and life-affirming cultural change. 

Despite current trends, the revolution will not be Tweeted, because this is not who and what we are as a species. We will need to make time to sit in safe circles, in person or virtual, as our ancestors did and we are designed to do as reality-creating storytellers, to begin the deep-listening process that can eventually rewire our neurobiology, ignite our heart wisdom, and help us become the embodied models of peace our children need us to become. Our other option is to emulate the deaf, silent, granite cultural symbols of an Old Story, and allow our apathy, inattentiveness and denial to continue to erode our spirits and planet.

We hope you will make time to listen to ROBE’s stories, and let us know your thoughts of how Kindred can continue to serve you, and the New Story of the Human Family.

You are welcome to join our virtual campfire discussion here.


Kindred’s Equity-Diversity-Inclusion Resources

Kindred’s Black Mothers and Fathers Resources

The Evolved Nest.The Evolved Nest is a breakthrough concept that integrates findings across fields that bear on child development, child raising and adult behavior.  The Evolved Nest promotes optimal health and wellbeing, cooperation, and receptive and sociomoral intelligences. Societal moves away from providing the Evolved Nest have contributed to the ill being and dysregulation we see in one another and society. Learn how to nest your children and re-nest yourself.

Saving Tomorrow Today: An African American Breastfeeding Blueprint. A new report from Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, ROSE.

Center for Worklife Law. The Center for WorkLife Law is a research and advocacy organization at UC Hastings College of the Law that seeks to advance gender and racial equity in the workplace and in higher education. WorkLife Law focuses on initiatives that can produce concrete social, legal, and institutional change within three to five years.

Our current major initiatives include programs for advancing women leaders, eliminating barriers for pregnant and breastfeeding workers and students, preventing Family Responsibilities Discrimination, and helping companies prevent or interrupt bias in the workplace and create more stable schedules for hourly workers.

United States Breastfeeding Committee.The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is an independent nonprofit organization that was formed in 1998* in response to the Innocenti Declaration of 1990, of which the United States Agency for International Development was a co-sponsor. Among other recommendations, the Innocenti Declaration calls on every nation to establish a multisectoral national breastfeeding committee comprised of representatives from relevant government departments, non-governmental organizations, and health professional associations to coordinate national breastfeeding initiatives. The USBC is now a coalition of more than 100 organizations that support its mission to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.

Center for Nonviolent Communication. See a list of human needs here. Learn deep-listening skills here as well!

Summary of Racial Identity Development. How far are you down your path?

Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture. See how closely related Toxic Masculinity, Patriarchy, Narcissism, and White Supremacy are on this website.

Dismantling Racism. An online workbook.

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Riding A Bullet Train To The Future https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/riding-a-bullet-train-to-the-future/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/riding-a-bullet-train-to-the-future/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2020 18:32:14 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=25298 A nightmare is a frightening dream that, while dreaming, is mistaken for reality. Thought is a virtual-reality and like a dream or nightmare, it superimposes its make-believe over something much more fundamental, our true authentic nature. Growing exponentially, and for countless centuries, the enchanting dream called thought, memory, and culture blankets human consciousness like thick […]]]>

A nightmare is a frightening dream that, while dreaming, is mistaken for reality. Thought is a virtual-reality and like a dream or nightmare, it superimposes its make-believe over something much more fundamental, our true authentic nature. Growing exponentially, and for countless centuries, the enchanting dream called thought, memory, and culture blankets human consciousness like thick black smog, rendering humanity’s natural heart and mind faint, a ghostlike shadow. So thick and deep is this enchantment that entire human capacities are forgotten, not modeled and lost in a single generation, while the dreaming mind doesn’t miss or even care about what has been lost, a dehumanizing cycle that spawns even more loss. And to this, we now must add technological virtual-reality, media, and the instantaneous dream-theater called the internet, empowered and controlled by the same enchantment that unifies and covers the earth. For all but a very rare few, this enchantment is all that most ever know. 

Obedience training and conformity was John Taylor Gotto’s description of compulsory schooling embedded in a compulsory culture. Unquestioned acceptance of the given was Jean Piaget’s description of the early child. The model given is the model grown. These two forces, absorbent-conformity, driven by the hypnotic addiction of media, a show, a virtual reality that is not living or alive, rather a dead counterfeit, best describes the dream that we have become, especially our children who desperately scream for authentic models that are not enchanted, for in their unconditioned hearts they still remember, but not for long. 

In a dream that is sadly not a dream, I slipped my bio-passport under the scanner, opening the metal gates that lead down steep steps to a waiting bullet train headed into the future. I take a seat and stare as the train begins to move. Flashes of neon-graffiti, revealing how my six-year-old daughter might live, are glowing on the dirty subway wall… No, I don’t want Carly to live in the dream I see flashing through that dirty window. 

Where instead of water 1,000 tons or more of micro-plastics rain down from the sky every year.

Where adults wear and force their children to wear, masks that hide what they think and feel.

Where people walk far apart because they are afraid to touch or to be touched.

A world where hugs and holding hands are dangerous.

Where sharing lemonade from the same cup is forbidden.

A world where everyone fears the air they breathe for, who knows, it might harbor some invisible scary something?

Where tiny machines are injected in our bodies that alter how we feel, what we think, and if we live or die, our very genetic code, by remote control.

A world where microwave radiation is beamed from space, by drones and from poles in every neighborhood that weakens the structured-water in every cell of our body allowing those robots floating in our veins to be monitored day-and-night from any place in the world.

Where people can no longer believe anyone or anything because what is real and true has been twisted inside out for just that reason.

An environment where just one, of an estimated two billion species, because of their enchantment and false identity, drives all others extinct.

A planet where the living biosphere bakes while no one notices or cares. 

A place where the thoughts people think are shaped and controlled by what they see and don’t see, on tiny screens that are addictive like heroin, instead of trusting direct experience.

A society where nobody can be trusted because they might not agree with what the screen says is true.

A community where sociopaths masquerading as politicians, medical doctors, teachers, researchers, and yes, parents, actually believe the stories they tell themselves and their children.

Where children in homes, schools, and neighborhoods are injected, by force, with toxic stuff, over and over, by people they think love them, injections that cause their delicate bodies to turn against itself (autoimmune reactions), children who, in their pain, are sold more stuff to fix what the injections cause, but never do, like a person about to be hung forced to dig his or her own grave before they die a slow death and made to pay for the privilege.

A world where a shared artificial reality displaces organic intelligence and even worse, where that authentic nature is declared taboo or superstitious, by machines that define and control most everything.

Where appropriate insight and truly intelligent action, emerging from the ground of empathy, compassion, and interdependence, is a myth told to children like fairy tales, a distant reality reserved for superheroes.

Where gene-altering sequences are slipped secretly into our bodies that in time, a few generations perhaps, reduce, even eliminate targeted groups of human beings.

A world where travel, attending school, or making a livelihood is restricted to those who obey, pay allegiance, and conform.

A planet where once robust and vital oceans, teeming with diversity, are mostly dead.

A place where nothing is wild; no elephants, no eagles, whales, frogs, butterflies, or bees.

A society and way of living where the very rich view everyone else as cattle to be managed.

Where despair fills the spaces in the human heart that hope used to live.

A global brain whose blinding ideas and beliefs about itself and others crush and make invisible the deeper, far more fundamental, qualities we share with each other and every living thing.

A psyche who, like a rapist, pushes aside hope and mystery with its hubris.

Where mothers and their unborn no longer experience the ecstasy of natural childbirth.

A model of learning that replaces the living, organic intelligence of play with obsolete data.

Where crafted, calculated, and reincarnated fear murders the capacity to experience joy.

Where humanity lives increasingly inside machines, becoming what they see, believing they are free.

A world where genetic tinkering finally puts an end to authentic human qualities.

An earth inhabited by robots or robot-like people who will never conceive or even miss what has been forgotten.

Still staring, but awakening slightly from that dream another takes its place; the image and words of J. Krishnamurti I filmed in Ojai, California, in 1985. 

“Unless I fundamentally change, the future will be what I am now. See the truth of this. The simple fact. Not that I am persuading you. Not that you’re being told or computerized. This is a simple fact. If I am vicious, cruel, brutal, today, as I have been in the past, I’ll be that way tomorrow. You can’t get away from it. If I am quarreling with my wife or husband and so on, I’ll do it tomorrow too. So the future is now. And to break this chain in which we are caught, there must be a mutation NOW.”

The dream, with its blinding enchantment, one crisis after the next, blasting simultaneously on our screens, has nearly put an end to us all, the sixth great extinction. To keep dreaming is suicidal. The mutation Krishnamurti spoke about, the only thing he ever spoke about, is waking up from the dream and discovering in that ‘other’ state that the dream is just a dream, and not who or what we are at all. And with that awakening, something fundamentally new begins, and not a moment too soon.

Shaking myself, the train, the windows, and flashing graffiti disappears leaving an insight: empathy, compassion, and interdependence, with its organic intelligence and action, is not a dream. Everything needed to stop and step-free from the nightmare we share is at hand, and in abundance, right now, but invisible when we are dreaming. 

What is left of my life is dedicated to ensuring that my daughter, and as many of her peers as possible, the future of humanity, experience directly what a true and authentic human being is; that they walk in beauty, hope and wonder as they resist the tyranny of machines and machine-like people who don’t understand, know, or experience what empathy feels like. Then the real challenge, the real insight flashes; to help Carly and her playmates discover, retain and honor that, I must live it myself, and not tomorrow.

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Become More Peaceful, No Matter the Circumstances https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/become-more-peaceful-no-matter-the-circumstances/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/06/become-more-peaceful-no-matter-the-circumstances/#respond Wed, 10 Jun 2020 21:54:23 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=25255 Understand and satisfy your basic needs. There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see […]]]>

Understand and satisfy your basic needs.

There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see what needs of yours need to be met and seek remedies.

Physiological needs like food, shelter, sleep (Maslow, 1970), and bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2003)

It is amazing to learn that our cousins, small-band hunter-gatherers (who live like humanity did in prehistory), don’t eat that much (are used to feast and famine); sleep comfortably outdoors in homemade shelters, sometimes sleeping off and on day and night (Lee and Daly, 2005). So it matters what your body is capable of (they are stronger) and what you get used to (Wells, 2010). Long fasts seem to be a good thing (e.g., 12 hours or more between dinner and breakfast). Eating fewer calories may also be related to better health. Sleeping in chunks too is normal (Reiss, 2017).

Perhaps one of the most underestimated physiological needs is positive touch. James Prescott (1996), formerly of NIH, emphasized the importance of affectionate touch for proper development. Pets can be a way for some people to get their touch needs met (and the needs of the pet).

Babies especially need nearly constant positive touch (Sunderland, 2006). My lab’s work finds positive touch in childhood to be related to health and social capacities, and negative touch to be related to less self-control and other forms of psychopathology.

Bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2013) is violated by sexual abuse but also corporal punishment. The detrimental effects of corporal punishment are well documented and linked to greater aggression (Gershoff, 2013).

Safety (Maslow, 1970)

When in a war zone, a sense of safety is hard to come by and occurs only in moments. But most of the time elsewhere, a sense of safety is more about our psychological than our physical environment. That is, we can scare ourselves by how we think. Sometimes early life experience makes us threat sensitive where our stress response is easily triggered even when there is no real danger to our well-being (Lanius et al, 2010). For people who are threat sensitive, self-calming techniques like belly breathing, meditation, and vagal nerve stimulation may be helpful (more below).

Family members need to ensure that one another feels safe when together, as a matter of basic human rights (Nussbaum, 2013). Get help if this is not the case.

Autonomy (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

No animal appreciates being tied down (Panksepp, 1998). Humans, too, expect the freedom to choose actions. As Deci and Ryan have documented, in US classroom settings, children do better when they feel they have choices. The same is true for adults in workplaces. People like to feel like they have some say in what they do. Find ways to make satisfying choices (preferably healthy ones!).

Control (Fiske, 2003)

Avoid the relationships and situations that stress you and deepen your inner calmness. Learn ways to stay calm, no matter what happens. It doesn’t mean you are not mobilized to act but that you are calm enough not to get so distressed you can’t act or think. Various practices that support self-calming include belly breathing (takes some effort to learn but changes metabolism; Kabat-Zinn, 2013).

Learn to switch attention. Just as with a child obsessed with something impossible to achieve, redirect your attention. You could immerse yourself in beauty. Watch and get absorbed into a specific aspect of the natural world—tree, leaves, clouds, sun play, rain, waves, or ripples. Or immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude—count your blessings (Emmons, 2013).

The human capabilities approach includes as a basic need control over one’s environment in political and material ways, factors that are more common in democratically run institutions and societies (Nussbaum, 2009).

Competence (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

Most adults feel competent at work and when laid off or retired, have lost a sense of competence. Self-efficacy is a cherished skill is a protective factor for adolescents (keeping them from risky behavior). That is, having a talent admired by the community can keep you out of trouble.

Self-esteem often runs alongside expectations for what you should have or be. If you have lost your usual ways of feeling competent and your self-esteem is low, change your expectations. Life is often a series of letting go of dreams that won’t work out. Focus on developing your unique gifts, perhaps gifts you did not know you had. Pay attention to your envy. Maybe you feel envious of someone’s accomplishments or fame. Consider envy a signal of work you have yet to do to hone your own skills in that direction.

Self-Actualization (Maslow, 1970)

According to Maslow’s analysis, few people were self-actualizers and they were not being studied. But he developed a set of guidelines for those who want to self-actualize, which I have discussed in other posts—see here and here.

Belonging, Love, Affiliation (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Maslow, 1970, Nussbaum, 2013)

As social creatures, love needs are central to our becoming. Our relationships form us, nurture us, and guide us. Psychological disorders can stem from a breakdown in loving care in childhood. Our brains malfunction in isolation because they need others to regulate limbic and other systems (Lewis et al., 2004). Thus, it is important to learn to form and maintain friendships. Here is one set of suggestions.

Understanding (Fiske, 2003)

Why? is a favorite question of children learning to understand their world. Sometimes it is hard for adults to know why something happened. But one of my favorite aphorisms for living came from Clint Eastwood as a marine in the movie Heartbreak Ridge: “Adapt and overcome.” This means accepting what happens and moving your way through it. Take challenging experiences as opportunities for learning and growing.

Trust (Erikson, 1950)

Erik Erikson identified trust vs. distrust as a basic stage in the first year of life. One emerges with an inner state of trusting or distrusting the world based on the quality of care received (our species’ expected care is the evolved nest). If seeds of distrust have been planted in early life, it takes some effort to revamp them into basic trust towards the world. Extensive therapeutic or friendship relationships are helpful as is guided immersion in wild nature (Plotkin, 2003).

Purpose and Life Meaning (Staub, 2003)

We all need a sense of purpose, and in fact, those who have one tend to be healthier. In fact, young people who are missing role models and guidance from broader narratives can be susceptible to hate groups (see Picciolini, 2017, for a recent example). If you haven’t yet found your purpose, here is a set of questions to help you find it. A great form of purpose is to help others get their basic needs met.

Play (Burghardt, 2005; Nussbaum, 2013)

One of the best ways to meet many basic needs is through creative physical social play (e.g., chase/tag, spontaneous dancing, or dramatic role-play). These build social joy and flexibility. In young children, the “joy juice” of social play shapes a happy personality (Sunderland, 2006).

Nature Connection and relation to other species (Louv, 2016; Nussbaum, 2013)

Humans are earth creatures and resonate with natural systems. There are healthful effects of attending to nature in small ways, dailyFirst Nation traditions emphasize respect for “all our relations” with animals, plants, and other earth entities as part of living a good life.


Burghardt, G.M. (2005). The genesis of animal play: Testing the limits. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deci, E., and Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Academic Press.

Emmons, R.A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation and spirituality in personality. New York: Guilford Press.

Emmons, R.A. (2013). Gratitude works! A 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Fiske, S. (2003). Social beings. New York: Wiley.

Gershoff, E.T. (2013) Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7 (3), 133-137.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Lanius, R.A., Vermetten, E., and Pain, C. (2010). The impact of early life trauma on health and disease: The hidden epidemic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, R.B., and Daly, R. (Eds.) (2005). The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, T., Amini, F., and Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of love. New York: Vintage.

Louv, R. (2016). Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health and Happiness.Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.

Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row.

Narvaez, D. (Ed.)  (2018). Basic needs, wellbeing and morality: Fulfilling human potential. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Picciolini, C. (2017). White American youth: My descent into America’s most violent hate movement—and how I got out. New York: Hachette.

Plotkin, B. (2003). Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.  New York: New World Library.

Prescott J.W. (1996). The origins of human love and violence. Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10 (3), 143-188.

Reiss, B. (2017). Wild nights: How taming sleep created our restless world. New York: Basic Books.

Staub, E. (2003). The psychology of good and evil: Why children, adults, and groups help and harm others. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sunderland, M. (2006). The science of parenting. DK Press.

Wells, S. (2010). Pandora’s seed: The unforeseen cost of civilization. New York: Random House.

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Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Knowhow For Global Flourishing https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/04/sustainable-wisdom-integrating-indigenous-knowhow-for-global-flourishing/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/04/sustainable-wisdom-integrating-indigenous-knowhow-for-global-flourishing/#respond Sun, 26 Apr 2020 17:01:11 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=24604 Editor’s Note: So you did not get to attend the Sustainable Wisdom Conference at Notre Dame in 2016 and experience the mind-expanding and soul-nourishing vision of a world that is possible if we integrate Indigenous Knowhow into our currently failing industrial world? That’s okay, because the entire conference, along with a book of essays from […]]]>

Editor’s Note: So you did not get to attend the Sustainable Wisdom Conference at Notre Dame in 2016 and experience the mind-expanding and soul-nourishing vision of a world that is possible if we integrate Indigenous Knowhow into our currently failing industrial world? That’s okay, because the entire conference, along with a book of essays from its presenters, and an overview of the event, are available to you now.

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

The Sustainable Wisdom Conference brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet. The speakers were selected for their specialty areas which range from science, history, education, psychology, and anthropology. The purpose of the conference and accompanying books is to bring to a wider audience an awareness of “first ways,” what we know about their effects on flourishing and how to integrate them into modern life for global flourishing. The conference was hosted by the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi and was held at the University of Notre Dame.

The Sustainable Wisdom Conference’s presentations are listed here in a YouTube Playlist on the Evolved Nest’s channel. You can watch Kindred’s Contributing Editor and conference organizer, Darcia Narvaez, open the conference in the first video and then present her work on creating sustainable humans through the Evolved Nest at the conference in the videos below:

Welcome: Two World Views

The Indigenous Worldview: Original Practices for Becoming and Being Human

About the Conference

A conference held at the University of Notre Dame, September 11-15, 2016 that brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet.

Organizer Darcia Narvaez wrote: We take Paul Shepard’s words as a guide:

Learn how to nest your children and re-nest yourself.

A journey to our primal world may bring answers to our ecological dilemmas…White European/Americans cannot become Hopis or Kalahari Bushmen or Magdalenian bison hunters, but elements in those cultures can be recovered or re-created because they fit the heritage and predilection of the human genome everywhere, a genome tracing back to a common ancestor that Anglos share with Hopis and Bushmen and all the rest of Homo sapiens. The social, ecological, and ideological characteristics natural to our humanity are to be found in the lives of foragers.

Must we build a new twenty-first-century society corresponding to a hunting/gathering culture? Of course not; humans do not consciously make cultures. What we can do is single out those many things, large and small, that characterized the social and cultural life of our ancestors—the terms under which our genome itself was shaped—and incorporate them as best we can by creating a modern life around them. We take our cues from primal cultures, the best wisdom of the deep desires of the genome. We humans are instinctive culture makers; given the pieces, the culture will reshape itself. (Coming Home to the Pleistocene)

How can we integrate the best of modern technology and capacities with the wisdom of first nations? The conference looked deeply into the mindsets, practices and wisdom of first nation peoples across multiple disciplines. The goals of the conference were to (a) Increase understanding of “first” ways; (b) Describe how indigenous cultures foster wisdom, morality and flourishing; (c) Find commonalities among different indigenous societies in fostering these outcomes; (d) Develop synergistic approaches to shifting human imagination towards “first ways.” We expected that the conference would help us envision ways to move toward integrating helpful modern advances with first ways into a new encompassing viewpoint where the greater community of life (diverse human and nonhuman entities) are included in conceptions of wellbeing and practices that lead to flourishing.

In the conference, we brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars to consider indigenous wisdom from multiple disciplines and to integrate this wisdom with modern knowhow. The speakers were selected for their specialty areas which range from science, history, education, psychology, and anthropology. The purpose of the conference and accompanying books was to bring to a wider audience an awareness of “first ways,” what we know about their effects on flourishing and how to integrate them into modern life for global flourishing.


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The Coronation https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/03/the-coronation/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/03/the-coronation/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2020 17:48:30 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=24349 Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.” For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled […]]]>

Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”

For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?

Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. None of the world’s problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement. In coherency, humanity’s creative powers are boundless. A few months ago, a proposal to halt commercial air travel would have seemed preposterous. Likewise for the radical changes we are making in our social behavior, economy, and the role of government in our lives. Covid demonstrates the power of our collective will when we agree on what is important. What else might we achieve, in coherency? What do we want to achieve, and what world shall we create? That is always the next question when anyone awakens to their power.

Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future. We might ask, after so many have lost their jobs, whether all of them are the jobs the world most needs, and whether our labor and creativity would be better applied elsewhere. We might ask, having done without it for a while, whether we really need so much air travel, Disneyworld vacations, or trade shows. What parts of the economy will we want to restore, and what parts might we choose to let go of? And on a darker note, what among the things that are being taken away right now – civil liberties, freedom of assembly, sovereignty over our bodies, in-person gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and public life – might we need to exert intentional political and personal will to restore?

For most of my life, I have had the feeling that humanity was nearing a crossroads. Always, the crisis, the collapse, the break was imminent, just around the bend, but it didn’t come and it didn’t come. Imagine walking a road, and up ahead you see it, you see the crossroads. It’s just over the hill, around the bend, past the woods. Cresting the hill, you see you were mistaken, it was a mirage, it was farther away than you thought. You keep walking. Sometimes it comes into view, sometimes it disappears from sight and it seems like this road goes on forever. Maybe there isn’t a crossroads. No, there it is again! Always it is almost here. Never is it here.

Now, all of a sudden, we go around a bend and here it is. We stop, hardly able to believe that now it is happening, hardly able to believe, after years of confinement to the road of our predecessors, that now we finally have a choice. We are right to stop, stunned at the newness of our situation. Because of the hundred paths that radiate out in front of us, some lead in the same direction we’ve already been headed. Some lead to hell on earth. And some lead to a world more healed and more beautiful than we ever dared believe to be possible.

I write these words with the aim of standing here with you – bewildered, scared maybe, yet also with a sense of new possibility – at this point of diverging paths. Let us gaze down some of them and see where they lead.

* * *

I heard this story last week from a friend. She was in a grocery store and saw a woman sobbing in the aisle. Flouting social distancing rules, she went to the woman and gave her a hug. “Thank you,” the woman said, “that is the first time anyone has hugged me for ten days.”

Going without hugs for a few weeks seems a small price to pay if it will stem an epidemic that could take millions of lives. There is a strong argument for social distancing in the near term: to prevent a sudden surge of Covid cases from overwhelming the medical system. I would like to put that argument in a larger context, especially as we look to the long term. Lest we institutionalize distancing and reengineer society around it, let us be aware of what choice we are making and why.

The same goes for the other changes happening around the coronavirus epidemic. Some commentators have observed how it plays neatly into an agenda of totalitarian control. A frightened public accepts abridgments of civil liberties that are otherwise hard to justify, such as the tracking of everyone’s movements at all times, forcible medical treatment, involuntary quarantine, restrictions on travel and the freedom of assembly, censorship of what the authorities deem to be disinformation, suspension of habeas corpus, and military policing of civilians. Many of these were underway before Covid-19; since its advent, they have been irresistible. The same goes for the automation of commerce; the transition from participation in sports and entertainment to remote viewing; the migration of life from public to private spaces; the transition away from place-based schools toward online education, the decline of brick-and-mortar stores, and the movement of human work and leisure onto screens. Covid-19 is accelerating preexisting trends, political, economic, and social.

While all the above are, in the short term, justified on the grounds of flattening the curve (the epidemiological growth curve), we are also hearing a lot about a “new normal”; that is to say, the changes may not be temporary at all. Since the threat of infectious disease, like the threat of terrorism, never goes away, control measures can easily become permanent. If we were going in this direction anyway, the current justification must be part of a deeper impulse. I will analyze this impulse in two parts: the reflex of control, and the war on death. Thus understood, an initiatory opportunity emerges, one that we are seeing already in the form of the solidarity, compassion, and care that Covid-19 has inspired.

The Reflex of Control

At the current writing, official statistics say that about 25,000 people have died from Covid-19. By the time it runs its course, the death toll could be ten times or a hundred times bigger, or even, if the most alarming guesses are right, a thousand times bigger. Each one of these people has loved ones, family and friends. Compassion and conscience call us to do what we can to avert unnecessary tragedy. This is personal for me: my own infinitely dear but frail mother is among the most vulnerable to a disease that kills mostly the aged and the infirm.

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What will the final numbers be? That question is impossible to answer at the time of this writing. Early reports were alarming; for weeks the official number from Wuhan, circulated endlessly in the media, was a shocking 3.4%. That, coupled with its highly contagious nature, pointed to tens of millions of deaths worldwide, or even as many as 100 million. More recently, estimates have plunged as it has become apparent that most cases are mild or asymptomatic. Since testing has been skewed towards the seriously ill, the death rate has looked artificially high. In South Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people with mild symptoms have been tested, the reported case fatality rate is around 1%. In Germany, whose testing also extends to many with mild symptoms, the fatality rate is 0.4%. A recent paper in the journal Science argues that 86% of infections have been undocumented, which points to a much lower mortality rate than the current case fatality rate would indicate.

The story of the Diamond Princess cruise ship bolsters this view. Of the 3,711 people on board, about 20% have tested positive for the virus; less than half of those had symptoms, and eight have died. A cruise ship is a perfect setting for contagion, and there was plenty of time for the virus to spread on board before anyone did anything about it, yet only a fifth were infected. Furthermore, the cruise ship’s population was heavily skewed (as are most cruise ships) toward the elderly: nearly a third of the passengers were over age 70, and more than half were over age 60. A research team concluded from the large number of asymptomatic cases that the true fatality rate in China is around 0.5%. That is still five times higher than flu. Based on the above (and adjusting for much younger demographics in Africa and South and Southeast Asia) my guess is about 200,000-300,000 deaths in the US – more if the medical system is overwhelmed, less if infections are spread out over time – and 3 million globally. Those are serious numbers. Not since the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968/9 has the world experienced anything like it.

My guesses could easily be off by an order of magnitude. Every day the media reports the total number of Covid-19 cases, but no one has any idea what the true number is, because only a tiny proportion of the population has been tested. If tens of millions have the virus, asymptomatically, we would not know it. Further complicating the matter is the high rate of false positives for existing testing, possibly as high as 80%. (And see here for even more alarming uncertainties about test accuracy.) Let me repeat: no one knows what is really happening, including me. Let us be aware of two contradictory tendencies in human affairs. The first is the tendency for hysteria to feed on itself, to exclude data points that don’t play into the fear, and to create the world in its image. The second is denial, the irrational rejection of information that might disrupt normalcy and comfort. As Daniel Schmactenberger asks, How do you know what you believe is true?

In the face of the uncertainty, I’d like to make a prediction: The crisis will play out so that we never will know. If the final death tally, which will itself be the subject of dispute, is lower than feared, some will say that is because the controls worked. Others will say it is because the disease wasn’t as dangerous as we were told.

To me, the most baffling puzzle is why at the present writing there seem to be no new cases in China. The government didn’t initiate its lockdown until well after the virus was established. It should have spread widely during Chinese New Year, when every plane, train, and bus is packed with people traveling all over the country. What is going on here? Again, I don’t know, and neither do you.

Whether the final global death toll is 50,000 or 500,000 or 5 million, let’s look at some other numbers to get some perspective. My point is NOT that Covid isn’t so bad and we shouldn’t do anything. Bear with me. Last year, according to the FAO, five million children worldwide died of hunger (among 162 million who are stunted and 51 million who are wasted). That is 200 times more people than have died so far from Covid-19, yet no government has declared a state of emergency or asked that we radically alter our way of life to save them. Nor do we see a comparable level of alarm and action around suicide – the mere tip of an iceberg of despair and depression – which kills over a million people a year globally and 50,000 in the USA. Or drug overdoses, which kill 70,000 in the USA, the autoimmunity epidemic, which affects 23.5 million (NIH figure) to 50 million (AARDA), or obesity, which afflicts well over 100 million. Why, for that matter, are we not in a frenzy about averting nuclear armageddon or ecological collapse, but, to the contrary, pursue choices that magnify those very dangers?

Please, the point here is not that we haven’t changed our ways to stop children from starving, so we shouldn’t change them for Covid either. It is the contrary: If we can change so radically for Covid-19, we can do it for these other conditions too. Let us ask why are we able to unify our collective will to stem this virus, but not to address other grave threats to humanity. Why, until now, has society been so frozen in its existing trajectory?

The answer is revealing. Simply, in the face of world hunger, addiction, autoimmunity, suicide, or ecological collapse, we as a society do not know what to do. Our go-to crisis responses, all of which are some version of control, aren’t very effective in addressing these conditions. Now along comes a contagious epidemic, and finally we can spring into action. It is a crisis for which control works: quarantines, lockdowns, isolation, hand-washing; control of movement, control of information, control of our bodies. That makes Covid a convenient receptacle for our inchoate fears, a place to channel our growing sense of helplessness in the face of the changes overtaking the world. Covid-19 is a threat that we know how to meet. Unlike so many of our other fears, Covid-19 offers a plan.

Our civilization’s established institutions are increasingly helpless to meet the challenges of our time. How they welcome a challenge that they finally can meet. How eager they are to embrace it as a paramount crisis. How naturally their systems of information management select for the most alarming portrayals of it. How easily the public joins the panic, embracing a threat that the authorities can handle as a proxy for the various unspeakable threats that they cannot.

Today, most of our challenges no longer succumb to force. Our antibiotics and surgery fail to meet the surging health crises of autoimmunity, addiction, and obesity. Our guns and bombs, built to conquer armies, are useless to erase hatred abroad or keep domestic violence out of our homes. Our police and prisons cannot heal the breeding conditions of crime. Our pesticides cannot restore ruined soil. Covid-19 recalls the good old days when the challenges of infectious diseases succumbed to modern medicine and hygiene, at the same time as the Nazis succumbed to the war machine, and nature itself succumbed, or so it seemed, to technological conquest and improvement. It recalls the days when our weapons worked and the world seemed indeed to be improving with each technology of control.

What kind of problem succumbs to domination and control? The kind caused by something from the outside, something Other. When the cause of the problem is something intimate to ourselves, like homelessness or inequality, addiction or obesity, there is nothing to war against. We may try to install an enemy, blaming, for example, the billionaires, Vladimir Putin, or the Devil, but then we miss key information, such as the ground conditions that allow billionaires (or viruses) to replicate in the first place.

If there is one thing our civilization is good at, it is fighting an enemy. We welcome opportunities to do what we are good at, which prove the validity of our technologies, systems, and worldview. And so, we manufacture enemies, cast problems like crime, terrorism, and disease into us-versus-them terms, and mobilize our collective energies toward those endeavors that can be seen that way. Thus, we single out Covid-19 as a call to arms, reorganizing society as if for a war effort, while treating as normal the possibility of nuclear armageddon, ecological collapse, and five million children starving.

The Conspiracy Narrative

Because Covid-19 seems to justify so many items on the totalitarian wish list, there are those who believe it to be a deliberate power play. It is not my purpose to advance that theory nor to debunk it, although I will offer some meta-level comments. First a brief overview.

The theories (there are many variants) talk about Event 201 (sponsored by the Gates Foundation, CIA, etc. last September), and a 2010 Rockefeller Foundation white paper detailing a scenario called “Lockstep,” both of which lay out the authoritarian response to a hypothetical pandemic. They observe that the infrastructure, technology, and legislative framework for martial law has been in preparation for many years. All that was needed, they say, was a way to make the public embrace it, and now that has come. Whether or not current controls are permanent, a precedent is being set for:

  • The tracking of people’s movements at all times (because coronavirus)
  • The suspension of freedom of assembly (because coronavirus)
  • The military policing of civilians (because coronavirus)
  • Extrajudicial, indefinite detention (quarantine, because coronavirus)
  • The banning of cash (because coronavirus)
  • Censorship of the Internet (to combat disinformation, because coronavirus)
  • Compulsory vaccination and other medical treatment, establishing the state’s sovereignty over our bodies (because coronavirus)
  • The classification of all activities and destinations into the expressly permitted and the expressly forbidden (you can leave your house for this, but not that), eliminating the un-policed, non-juridical gray zone. That totality is the very essence of totalitarianism. Necessary now though, because, well, coronavirus.

This is juicy material for conspiracy theories. For all I know, one of those theories could be true; however, the same progression of events could unfold from an unconscious systemic tilt toward ever-increasing control. Where does this tilt come from? It is woven into civilization’s DNA. For millennia, civilization (as opposed to small-scale traditional cultures) has understood progress as a matter of extending control onto the world: domesticating the wild, conquering the barbarians, mastering the forces of nature, and ordering society according to law and reason. The ascent of control accelerated with the Scientific Revolution, which launched “progress” to new heights: the ordering of reality into objective categories and quantities, and the mastering of materiality with technology. Finally, the social sciences promised to use the same means and methods to fulfill the ambition (which goes back to Plato and Confucius) to engineer a perfect society.

Those who administer civilization will therefore welcome any opportunity to strengthen their control, for after all, it is in service to a grand vision of human destiny: the perfectly ordered world, in which disease, crime, poverty, and perhaps suffering itself can be engineered out of existence. No nefarious motives are necessary. Of course they would like to keep track of everyone – all the better to ensure the common good. For them, Covid-19 shows how necessary that is. “Can we afford democratic freedoms in light of the coronavirus?” they ask. “Must we now, out of necessity, sacrifice those for our own safety?” It is a familiar refrain, for it has accompanied other crises in the past, like 9/11.

To rework a common metaphor, imagine a man with a hammer, stalking around looking for a reason to use it. Suddenly he sees a nail sticking out. He’s been looking for a nail for a long time, pounding on screws and bolts and not accomplishing much. He inhabits a worldview in which hammers are the best tools, and the world can be made better by pounding in the nails. And here is a nail! We might suspect that in his eagerness he has placed the nail there himself, but it hardly matters. Maybe it isn’t even a nail that’s sticking out, but it resembles one enough to start pounding. When the tool is at the ready, an opportunity will arise to use it.

And I will add, for those inclined to doubt the authorities, maybe this time it really is a nail. In that case, the hammer is the right tool – and the principle of the hammer will emerge the stronger, ready for the screw, the button, the clip, and the tear.

Either way, the problem we deal with here is much deeper than that of overthrowing an evil coterie of Illuminati. Even if they do exist, given the tilt of civilization, the same trend would persist without them, or a new Illuminati would arise to assume the functions of the old.

True or false, the idea that the epidemic is some monstrous plot perpetrated by evildoers upon the public is not so far from the mindset of find-the-pathogen. It is a crusading mentality, a war mentality. It locates the source of a sociopolitical illness in a pathogen against which we may then fight, a victimizer separate from ourselves. It risks ignoring the conditions that make society fertile ground for the plot to take hold. Whether that ground was sown deliberately or by the wind is, for me, a secondary question.

What I will say next is relevant whether or not Covid-19 is a genetically engineered bioweapon, is related to 5G rollout, is being used to prevent “disclosure,” is a Trojan horse for totalitarian world government, is more deadly than we’ve been told, is less deadly than we’ve been told, originated in a Wuhan biolab, originated at Fort Detrick, or is exactly as the CDC and WHO have been telling us. It applies even if everyone is totally wrong about the role of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the current epidemic. I have my opinions, but if there is one thing I have learned through the course of this emergency is that I don’t really know what is happening. I don’t see how anyone can, amidst the seething farrago of news, fake news, rumors, suppressed information, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and politicized narratives that fill the Internet. I wish a lot more people would embrace not knowing. I say that both to those who embrace the dominant narrative, as well as to those who hew to dissenting ones. What information might we be blocking out, in order to maintain the integrity of our viewpoints? Let’s be humble in our beliefs: it is a matter of life and death.

The War on Death

My 7-year-old son hasn’t seen or played with another child for two weeks. Millions of others are in the same boat. Most would agree that a month without social interaction for all those children a reasonable sacrifice to save a million lives. But how about to save 100,000 lives? And what if the sacrifice is not for a month but for a year? Five years? Different people will have different opinions on that, according to their underlying values.

Let’s replace the foregoing questions with something more personal, that pierces the inhuman utilitarian thinking that turns people into statistics and sacrifices some of them for something else. The relevant question for me is, Would I ask all the nation’s children to forego play for a season, if it would reduce my mother’s risk of dying, or for that matter, my own risk? Or I might ask, Would I decree the end of human hugging and handshakes, if it would save my own life? This is not to devalue Mom’s life or my own, both of which are precious. I am grateful for every day she is still with us. But these questions bring up deep issues. What is the right way to live? What is the right way to die?

The answer to such questions, whether asked on behalf of oneself or on behalf of society at large, depends on how we hold death and how much we value play, touch, and togetherness, along with civil liberties and personal freedom. There is no easy formula to balance these values.

Over my lifetime I’ve seen society place more and more emphasis on safety, security, and risk reduction. It has especially impacted childhood: as a young boy it was normal for us to roam a mile from home unsupervised – behavior that would earn parents a visit from Child Protective Services today. It also manifests in the form of latex gloves for more and more professions; hand sanitizer everywhere; locked, guarded, and surveilled school buildings; intensified airport and border security; heightened awareness of legal liability and liability insurance; metal detectors and searches before entering many sports arenas and public buildings, and so on. Writ large, it takes the form of the security state.

The mantra “safety first” comes from a value system that makes survival top priority, and that depreciates other values like fun, adventure, play, and the challenging of limits. Other cultures had different priorities. For instance, many traditional and indigenous cultures are much less protective of children, as documented in Jean Liedloff’s classic, The Continuum Concept. They allow them risks and responsibilities that would seem insane to most modern people, believing that this is necessary for children to develop self-reliance and good judgement. I think most modern people, especially younger people, retain some of this inherent willingness to sacrifice safety in order to live life fully. The surrounding culture, however, lobbies us relentlessly to live in fear, and has constructed systems that embody fear. In them, staying safe is over-ridingly important. Thus we have a medical system in which most decisions are based on calculations of risk, and in which the worst possible outcome, marking the physician’s ultimate failure, is death. Yet all the while, we know that death awaits us regardless. A life saved actually means a death postponed.

The ultimate fulfillment of civilization’s program of control would be to triumph over death itself. Failing that, modern society settles for a facsimile of that triumph: denial rather than conquest. Ours is a society of death denial, from its hiding away of corpses, to its fetish for youthfulness, to its warehousing of old people in nursing homes. Even its obsession with money and property – extensions of the self, as the word “mine” indicates – expresses the delusion that the impermanent self can be made permanent through its attachments. All this is inevitable given the story-of-self that modernity offers: the separate individual in a world of Other. Surrounded by genetic, social, and economic competitors, that self must protect and dominate in order to thrive. It must do everything it can to forestall death, which (in the story of separation) is total annihilation. Biological science has even taught us that our very nature is to maximize our chances of surviving and reproducing.

I asked a friend, a medical doctor who has spent time with the Q’ero on Peru, whether the Q’ero would (if they could) intubate someone to prolong their life. “Of course not,” she said. “They would summon the shaman to help him die well.” Dying well (which isn’t necessarily the same as dying painlessly) is not much in today’s medical vocabulary. No hospital records are kept on whether patients die well. That would not be counted as a positive outcome. In the world of the separate self, death is the ultimate catastrophe.

But is it? Consider this perspective from Dr. Lissa Rankin: “Not all of us would want to be in an ICU, isolated from loved ones with a machine breathing for us, at risk of dying alone- even if it means they might increase their chance of survival. Some of us might rather be held in the arms of loved ones at home, even if that means our time has come…. Remember, death is no ending. Death is going home.”

When the self is understood as relational, interdependent, even inter-existent, then it bleeds over into the other, and the other bleeds over into the self. Understanding the self as a locus of consciousness in a matrix of relationship, one no longer searches for an enemy as the key to understanding every problem, but looks instead for imbalances in relationships. The War on Death gives way to the quest to live well and fully, and we see that fear of death is actually fear of life. How much of life will we forego to stay safe?

Totalitarianism – the perfection of control – is the inevitable end product of the mythology of the separate self. What else but a threat to life, like a war, would merit total control? Thus Orwell identified perpetual war as a crucial component of the Party’s rule.

Against the backdrop of the program of control, death denial, and the separate self, the assumption that public policy should seek to minimize the number of deaths is nearly beyond question, a goal to which other values like play, freedom, etc. are subordinate. Covid-19 offers occasion to broaden that view. Yes, let us hold life sacred, more sacred than ever. Death teaches us that. Let us hold each person, young or old, sick or well, as the sacred, precious, beloved being that they are. And in the circle of our hearts, let us make room for other sacred values too. To hold life sacred is not just to live long, it is to live well and right and fully.

Like all fear, the fear around the coronavirus hints at what might lie beyond it. Anyone who has experienced the passing of someone close knows that death is a portal to love. Covid-19 has elevated death to prominence in the consciousness of a society that denies it. On the other side of the fear, we can see the love that death liberates. Let it pour forth. Let it saturate the soil of our culture and fill its aquifers so that it seeps up through the cracks of our crusted institutions, our systems, and our habits. Some of these may die too.

What world shall we live in?

How much of life do we want to sacrifice at the altar of security? If it keeps us safer, do we want to live in a world where human beings never congregate? Do we want to wear masks in public all the time? Do we want to be medically examined every time we travel, if that will save some number of lives a year? Are we willing to accept the medicalization of life in general, handing over final sovereignty over our bodies to medical authorities (as selected by political ones)? Do we want every event to be a virtual event? How much are we willing to live in fear?

Covid-19 will eventually subside, but the threat of infectious disease is permanent. Our response to it sets a course for the future. Public life, communal life, the life of shared physicality has been dwindling over several generations.

Covid-19 will eventually subside, but the threat of infectious disease is permanent. Our response to it sets a course for the future. Public life, communal life, the life of shared physicality has been dwindling over several generations. Instead of shopping at stores, we get things delivered to our homes. Instead of packs of kids playing outside, we have play dates and digital adventures. Instead of the public square, we have the online forum. Do we want to continue to insulate ourselves still further from each other and the world?

It is not hard to imagine, especially if social distancing is successful, that Covid-19 persists beyond the 18 months we are being told to expect for it to run its course. It is not hard to imagine that new viruses will emerge during that time. It is not hard to imagine that emergency measures will become normal (so as to forestall the possibility of another outbreak), just as the state of emergency declared after 9/11 is still in effect today. It is not hard to imagine that (as we are being told), reinfection is possible, so that the disease will never run its course. That means that the temporary changes in our way of life may become permanent.

To reduce the risk of another pandemic, shall we choose to live in a society without hugs, handshakes, and high-fives, forever more? Shall we choose to live in a society where we no longer gather en masse? Shall the concert, the sports competition, and the festival be a thing of the past? Shall children no longer play with other children? Shall all human contact be mediated by computers and masks? No more dance classes, no more karate classes, no more conferences, no more churches? Is death reduction to be the standard by which to measure progress? Does human advancement mean separation? Is this the future?

The same question applies to the administrative tools required to control the movement of people and the flow of information. At the present writing, the entire country is moving toward lockdown. In some countries, one must print out a form from a government website in order to leave the house. It reminds me of school, where one’s location must be authorized at all times. Or of prison. Do we envision a future of electronic hall passes, a system where freedom of movement is governed by state administrators and their software at all times, permanently? Where every movement is tracked, either permitted or prohibited? And, for our protection, where information that threatens our health (as decided, again, by various authorities) is censored for our own good? In the face of an emergency, like unto a state of war, we accept such restrictions and temporarily surrender our freedoms. Similar to 9/11, Covid-19 trumps all objections.

For the first time in history, the technological means exist to realize such a vision, at least in the developed world (for example, using cellphone location data to enforce social distancing; see also here). After a bumpy transition, we could live in a society where nearly all of life happens online: shopping, meeting, entertainment, socializing, working, even dating. Is that what we want? How many lives saved is that worth?

I am sure that many of the controls in effect today will be partially relaxed in a few months. Partially relaxed, but at the ready. As long as infectious disease remains with us, they are likely to be reimposed, again and again, in the future, or be self-imposed in the form of habits. As Deborah Tannen says, contributing to a Politico article on how coronavirus will change the world permanently, ‘We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky…. It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands or touching our faces—and we may all fall heir to society-wide OCD, as none of us can stop washing our hands.” After thousands of years, millions of years, of touch, contact, and togetherness, is the pinnacle of human progress to be that we cease such activities because they are too risky?

Life is Community

The paradox of the program of control is that its progress rarely advances us any closer to its goal. Despite security systems in almost every upper middle-class home, people are no less anxious or insecure than they were a generation ago. Despite elaborate security measures, the schools are not seeing fewer mass shootings. Despite phenomenal progress in medical technology, people have if anything become less healthy over the past thirty years, as chronic disease has proliferated and life expectancy stagnated and, in the USA and Britain, started to decline.

The measures being instituted to control Covid-19, likewise, may end up causing more suffering and death than they prevent. Minimizing deaths means minimizing the deaths that we know how to predict and measure. It is impossible to measure the added deaths that might come from isolation-induced depression, for instance, or the despair caused by unemployment, or the lowered immunity and deterioration in health that chronic fear can cause. Loneliness and lack of social contact has been shown to increase inflammationdepression, and dementia. According to Lissa Rankin, M.D., air pollution increases risk of dying by 6%, obesity by 23%, alcohol abuse by 37%, and loneliness by 45%.

Another danger that is off the ledger is the deterioration in immunity caused by excessive hygiene and distancing. It is not only social contact that is necessary for health, it is also contact with the microbial world. Generally speaking, microbes are not our enemies, they are our allies in health. A diverse gut biome, comprising bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and other organisms, is essential for a well-functioning immune system, and its diversity is maintained through contact with other people and with the world of life. Excessive hand-washing, overuse of antibiotics, aseptic cleanliness, and lack of human contact might do more harm than good. The resulting allergies and autoimmune disorders might be worse than the infectious disease they replace. Socially and biologically, health comes from community. Life does not thrive in isolation.

Seeing the world in us-versus-them terms blinds us to the reality that life and health happen in community. To take the example of infectious diseases, we fail to look beyond the evil pathogen and ask, What is the role of viruses in the microbiome? (See also here.) What are the body conditions under which harmful viruses proliferate? Why do some people have mild symptoms and others severe ones (besides the catch-all non-explanation of “low resistance”)? What positive role might flus, colds, and other non-lethal diseases play in the maintenance of health?

War-on-germs thinking brings results akin to those of the War on Terror, War on Crime, War on Weeds, and the endless wars we fight politically and interpersonally. First, it generates endless war; second, it diverts attention from the ground conditions that breed illness, terrorism, crime, weeds, and the rest.

Despite politicians’ perennial claim that they pursue war for the sake of peace, war inevitably breeds more war. Bombing countries to kill terrorists not only ignores the ground conditions of terrorism, it exacerbates those conditions. Locking up criminals not only ignores the conditions that breed crime, it creates those conditions when it breaks up families and communities and acculturates the incarcerated to criminality. And regimes of antibiotics, vaccines, antivirals, and other medicines wreak havoc on body ecology, which is the foundation of strong immunity. Outside the body, the massive spraying campaigns sparked by Zika, Dengue Fever, and now Covid-19 will visit untold damage upon nature’s ecology. Has anyone considered what the effects on the ecosystem will be when we douse it with antiviral compounds? Such a policy (which has been implemented in various places in China and India) is only thinkable from the mindset of separation, which does not understand that viruses are integral to the web of life.

To understand the point about ground conditions, consider some mortality statistics from Italy (from its National Health Institute), based on an analysis of hundreds of Covid-19 fatalities. Of those analyzed, less than 1% were free of serious chronic health conditions. Some 75% suffered from hypertension, 35% from diabetes, 33% from cardiac ischemia, 24% from atrial fibrillation, 18% from low renal function, along with other conditions that I couldn’t decipher from the Italian report. Nearly half the deceased had three or more of these serious pathologies. Americans, beset by obesity, diabetes, and other chronic ailments, are at least as vulnerable as Italians. Should we blame the virus then (which killed few otherwise healthy people), or shall we blame underlying poor health? Here again the analogy of the taut rope applies. Millions of people in the modern world are in a precarious state of health, just waiting for something that would normally be trivial to send them over the edge. Of course, in the short term we want to save their lives; the danger is that we lose ourselves in an endless succession of short terms, fighting one infectious disease after another, and never engage the ground conditions that make people so vulnerable. That is a much harder problem, because these ground conditions will not change via fighting. There is no pathogen that causes diabetes or obesity, addiction, depression, or PTSD. Their causes are not an Other, not some virus separate from ourselves, and we its victims.

Even in diseases like Covid-19, in which we can name a pathogenic virus, matters are not so simple as a war between virus and victim. There is an alternative to the germ theory of disease that holds germs to be part of a larger process. When conditions are right, they multiply in the body, sometimes killing the host, but also, potentially, improving the conditions that accommodated them to begin with, for example by cleaning out accumulated toxic debris via mucus discharge, or (metaphorically speaking) burning them up with fever. Sometimes called “terrain theory,” it says that germs are more symptom than cause of disease. As one meme explains it: “Your fish is sick. Germ theory: isolate the fish. Terrain theory: clean the tank.”

A certain schizophrenia afflicts the modern culture of health. On the one hand, there is a burgeoning wellness movement that embraces alternative and holistic medicine. It advocates herbs, meditation, and yoga to boost immunity. It validates the emotional and spiritual dimensions of health, such as the power of attitudes and beliefs to sicken or to heal. All of this seems to have disappeared under the Covid tsunami, as society defaults to the old orthodoxy.

Case in point: California acupuncturists have been forced to shut down, having been deemed “non-essential.” This is perfectly understandable from the perspective of conventional virology. But as one acupuncturist on Facebook observed, “What about my patient who I’m working with to get off opioids for his back pain? He’s going to have to start using them again.” From the worldview of medical authority, alternative modalities, social interaction, yoga classes, supplements, and so on are frivolous when it comes to real diseases caused by real viruses. They are relegated to an etheric realm of “wellness” in the face of a crisis. The resurgence of orthodoxy under Covid-19 is so intense that anything remotely unconventional, such as intravenous vitamin C, was completely off the table in the United States until two days ago (articles still abound “debunking” the “myth” that vitamin C can help fight Covid-19). Nor have I heard the CDC evangelize the benefits of elderberry extract, medicinal mushrooms, cutting sugar intake, NAC (N-acetyl L-cysteine), astragalus, or vitamin D. These are not just mushy speculation about “wellness,” but are supported by extensive research and physiological explanations. For example, NAC (general info, double-blind placebo-controlled study) has been shown to radically reduce incidence and severity of symptoms in flu-like illnesses.

As the statistics I offered earlier on autoimmunity, obesity, etc. indicate, America and the modern world in general are facing a health crisis. Is the answer to do what we’ve been doing, only more thoroughly? The response so far to Covid has been to double down on the orthodoxy and sweep unconventional practices and dissenting viewpoints aside. Another response would be to widen our lens and examine the entire system, including who pays for it, how access is granted, and how research is funded, but also expanding out to include marginal fields like herbal medicine, functional medicine, and energy medicine. Perhaps we can take this opportunity to reevaluate prevailing theories of illness, health, and the body. Yes, let’s protect the sickened fish as best we can right now, but maybe next time we won’t have to isolate and drug so many fish, if we can clean the tank.

Another option is available now too. Instead of doubling down on control, we could finally embrace the holistic paradigms and practices that have been waiting on the margins, waiting for the center to dissolve so that, in our humbled state, we can bring them into the center and build a new system around them.

I’m not telling you to run out right now and buy NAC or any other supplement, nor that we as a society should abruptly shift our response, cease social distancing immediately, and start taking supplements instead. But we can use the break in normal, this pause at a crossroads, to consciously choose what path we shall follow moving forward: what kind of healthcare system, what paradigm of health, what kind of society. This reevaluation is already happening, as ideas like universal free healthcare in the USA gain new momentum. And that path leads to forks as well. What kind of healthcare will be universalized? Will it be merely available to all, or mandatory for all – each citizen a patient, perhaps with an invisible ink barcode tattoo certifying one is up to date on all compulsory vaccines and check-ups. Then you can go to school, board a plane, or enter a restaurant. This is one path to the future that is available to us.

Another option is available now too. Instead of doubling down on control, we could finally embrace the holistic paradigms and practices that have been waiting on the margins, waiting for the center to dissolve so that, in our humbled state, we can bring them into the center and build a new system around them.

The Coronation

There is an alternative to the paradise of perfect control that our civilization has so long pursued, and that recedes as fast as our progress, like a mirage on the horizon. Yes, we can proceed as before down the path toward greater insulation, isolation, domination, and separation. We can normalize heightened levels of separation and control, believe that they are necessary to keep us safe, and accept a world in which we are afraid to be near each other. Or we can take advantage of this pause, this break in normal, to turn onto a path of reunion, of holism, of the restoring of lost connections, of the repair of community and the rejoining of the web of life.

Do we double down on protecting the separate self, or do we accept the invitation into a world where all of us are in this together? It isn’t just in medicine we encounter this question: it visits us politically, economically, and in our personal lives as well. Take for example the issue of hoarding, which embodies the idea, “There won’t be enough for everyone, so I am going to make sure there is enough for me.” Another response might be, “Some don’t have enough, so I will share what I have with them.” Are we to be survivalists or helpers? What is life for?

On a larger scale, people are asking questions that have until now lurked on activist margins. What should we do about the homeless? What should we do about the people in prisons? In Third World slums? What should we do about the unemployed? What about all the hotel maids, the Uber drivers, the plumbers and janitors and bus drivers and cashiers who cannot work from home? And so now, finally, ideas like student debt relief and universal basic income are blossoming. “How do we protect those susceptible to Covid?” invites us into “How do we care for vulnerable people in general?”

That is the impulse that stirs in us, regardless of the superficialities of our opinions about Covid’s severity, origin, or best policy to address it. It is saying, let’s get serious about taking care of each other. Let’s remember how precious we all are and how precious life is. Let’s take inventory of our civilization, strip it down to its studs, and see if we can build one more beautiful.

As Covid stirs our compassion, more and more of us realize that we don’t want to go back to a normal so sorely lacking it. We have the opportunity now to forge a new, more compassionate normal.

As Covid stirs our compassion, more and more of us realize that we don’t want to go back to a normal so sorely lacking it. We have the opportunity now to forge a new, more compassionate normal.

Hopeful signs abound that this is happening. The United States government, which has long seemed the captive of heartless corporate interests, has unleashed hundreds of billions of dollars in direct payments to families. Donald Trump, not known as a paragon of compassion, has put a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. Certainly one can take a cynical view of both these developments; nonetheless, they embody the principle of caring for the vulnerable.

From all over the world we hear stories of solidarity and healing. One friend described sending $100 each to ten strangers who were in dire need. My son, who until a few days ago worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, said people were tipping at five times the normal rate – and these are working class people, many of them Hispanic truck drivers, who are economically insecure themselves. Doctors, nurses, and “essential workers” in other professions risk their lives to serve the public. Here are some more examples of the love and kindness eruption, courtesy of ServiceSpace:

Perhaps we’re in the middle of living into that new story. Imagine Italian airforce using Pavoratti, Spanish military doing acts of service, and street police playing guitars — to *inspire*. Corporations giving unexpected wage hikes. Canadians starting “Kindness Mongering.” Six year old in Australia adorably gifting her tooth fairy money, an 8th grader in Japan making 612 masks, and college kids everywhere buying groceries for elders. Cuba sending an army in “white robes” (doctors) to help Italy. A landlord allowing tenants to stay without rent, an Irish priest’s poem going viral, disabled activitists producing hand sanitizer. Imagine. Sometimes a crisis mirrors our deepest impulse — that we can always respond with compassion.

As Rebecca Solnit describes in her marvelous book, A Paradise Built in Hell, disaster often liberates solidarity. A more beautiful world shimmers just beneath the surface, bobbing up whenever the systems that hold it underwater loosen their grip.

For a long time we, as a collective, have stood helpless in the face of an ever-sickening society. Whether it is declining health, decaying infrastructure, depression, suicide, addiction, ecological degradation, or concentration of wealth, the symptoms of civilizational malaise in the developed world are plain to see, but we have been stuck in the systems and patterns that cause them. Now, Covid has gifted us a reset.

A million forking paths lie before us. Universal basic income could mean an end to economic insecurity and the flowering of creativity as millions are freed from the work that Covid has shown us is less necessary than we thought. Or it could mean, with the decimation of small businesses, dependency on the state for a stipend that comes with strict conditions. The crisis could usher in totalitarianism or solidarity; medical martial law or a holistic renaissance; greater fear of the microbial world, or greater resiliency in participation in it; permanent norms of social distancing, or a renewed desire to come together.

What can guide us, as individuals and as a society, as we walk the garden of forking paths? At each junction, we can be aware of what we follow: fear or love, self-preservation or generosity. Shall we live in fear and build a society based on it? Shall we live to preserve our separate selves? Shall we use the crisis as a weapon against our political enemies? These are not all-or-nothing questions, all fear or all love. It is that a next step into love lies before us. It feels daring, but not reckless. It treasures life, while accepting death. And it trusts that with each step, the next will become visible.

Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation?The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”

Please don’t think that choosing love over fear can be accomplished solely through an act of will, and that fear too can be conquered like a virus. The virus we face here is fear, whether it is fear of Covid-19, or fear of the totalitarian response to it, and this virus too has its terrain. Fear, along with addiction, depression, and a host of physical ills, flourishes in a terrain of separation and trauma: inherited trauma, childhood trauma, violence, war, abuse, neglect, shame, punishment, poverty, and the muted, normalized trauma that affects nearly everyone who lives in a monetized economy, undergoes modern schooling, or lives without community or connection to place. This terrain can be changed, by trauma healing on a personal level, by systemic change toward a more compassionate society, and by transforming the basic narrative of separation: the separate self in a world of other, me separate from you, humanity separate from nature. To be alone is a primal fear, and modern society has rendered us more and more alone. But the time of Reunion is here. Every act of compassion, kindness, courage, or generosity heals us from the story of separation, because it assures both actor and witness that we are in this together.

I will conclude by invoking one more dimension of the relationship between humans and viruses. Viruses are integral to evolution, not just of humans but of all eukaryotes. Viruses can transfer DNA from organism to organism, sometimes inserting it into the germline (where it becomes heritable). Known as horizontal gene transfer, this is a primary mechanism of evolution, allowing life to evolve together much faster than is possible through random mutation. As Lynn Margulis once put it, we are our viruses.

And now let me venture into speculative territory. Perhaps the great diseases of civilization have quickened our biological and cultural evolution, bestowing key genetic information and offering both individual and collective initiation. Could the current pandemic be just that? Novel RNA codes are spreading from human to human, imbuing us with new genetic information; at the same time, we are receiving other, esoteric, “codes” that ride the back of the biological ones, disrupting our narratives and systems in the same way that an illness disrupts bodily physiology. The phenomenon follows the template of initiation: separation from normality, followed by a dilemma, breakdown, or ordeal, followed (if it is to be complete) by reintegration and celebration.

Now the question arises: Initiation into what? What is the specific nature and purpose of this initiation? The popular name for the pandemic offers a clue: coronavirus. A corona is a crown. “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”

Already we can feel the power of who we might become. A true sovereign does not run in fear from life or from death. A true sovereign does not dominate and conquer (that is a shadow archetype, the Tyrant). The true sovereign serves the people, serves life, and respects the sovereignty of all people. The coronation marks the emergence of the unconscious into consciousness, the crystallization of chaos into order, the transcendence of compulsion into choice. We become the rulers of that which had ruled us. The New World Order that the conspiracy theorists fear is a shadow of the glorious possibility available to sovereign beings. No longer the vassals of fear, we can bring order to the kingdom and build an intentional society on the love already shining through the cracks of the world of separation.

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The Biology Of Transcendence https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/03/the-biology-of-transcendence/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/03/the-biology-of-transcendence/#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2020 21:59:03 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=24319 Editor’s Note: It was Joseph Chilton Pearce’s seminal work that helped lay the foundation of the Conscious Parenting Movement in the United States and around the world, beginning with The Magical Child. Pearce pointed to the Bio-Cultural Conflict the human family found itself facing, especially those attempting to nurture the bodies, hearts and brains of […]]]>

Editor’s Note: It was Joseph Chilton Pearce’s seminal work that helped lay the foundation of the Conscious Parenting Movement in the United States and around the world, beginning with The Magical Child. Pearce pointed to the Bio-Cultural Conflict the human family found itself facing, especially those attempting to nurture the bodies, hearts and brains of the next generation in a culture that did not support nurturing of life, much less human life. Enjoy the introduction to his book, The Biology of Transcendence, here and marvel, as we do, that we still have the guidance of Pearce’s compassion and wisdom for humanity to guide us.

See Kindred’s New Story Glossary of Terms for more insights into Biological Imperatives, Cultural Imperatives, and the Bio-Cultural Conflict. Kindred’s contributors’ insights, and our mission as a nonprofit since 1996, has been to redress this conflict and move us beyond “self-limiting beliefs” toward the sustainable wisdom, innate intelligence, and as Pearce called our biological potential, our “astonishing capacities.” We’re honored to share his work with you here.

This introduction is being shared in preparation for the forthcoming anthology of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s work. It is copyrighted material, so please only share this page.

The Introduction to the Book by Joseph Chilton Pearce

“The ability to rise and go beyond” is the definition of transcendence and the subject explored in the following pages.  While this force constitutes our nature and fires our spirit, an honest exploration of it must contend with this counter question: Why, with a history so rich in noble ideals and lofty philosophies that reach for the transcendent, do we exhibit such abominable behaviors?  Our violence toward ourselves and the planet is an issue that overshadows and makes a mockery of all our high aspirations.

Sat Prem, a French writer transplanted to India following World War II, recently asked this question: “Why, after thousands of years and meditation, has human nature not changed one iota?”  In the same vein, this book asks why, after two thousand years of Bible quoting, proselytizing, praying, hymn singing, cathedral building, witch burning, and missionizing has civilization grown more violent and efficient in mass murder?  In exploring the issue of transcendence, we explore by default the issue of our violence.  The two are intertwined.  

Neither our violence nor our transcendence is a moral or ethical matter of religion, but rather an issue of biology.  We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation and, as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed.  While this ability can lead us to transcendence, paradoxically it can lead also to violence; our longing for transcendence arises from our intuitive sensing of this adaptive potential and our violence arises from our failure to develop it.

Perennially our pleas to cloud nine go unheeded, our struggles against principalities and powers are in vain, and we wander in a self-made hall of mirrors, overwhelmed by inaccessible reflections of our own mind. Handed down through millennia, our mythical and religious projections take on a life of their own as cultural counterfeits of transcendence. 

“We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation and, as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed. While this ability can lead us to transcendence, paradoxically it can lead also to violence; our longing for transcendence arises from our intuitive sensing of this adaptive potential and our violence arises from our failure to develop it.”

The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, 2004

Culture has been defined by anthropologists as a collection of learned survival strategies passed on to our young through teaching and modeling. The following chapters will explore how culture as a body of learned survival strategies shapes our biology and how biology in turn shapes culture. Religious institutions, cloaked as survival strategies for our minds or soul, are the pseudo-sacred handmaidens of culture brought about through our projections of the transcendent aspects of our nature. Thus this trinity of myth, religion, and culture is both the cause and source of our projections.  Each element of the trinity brings the other into being and all three inter-locking phenomena—myth, religion, and culture—are sustained by the violence they generate within us.

That we are shaped by the culture we create makes it difficult to see that our culture is what must be transcended, which means we must rise above our notions and techniques of survival itself, if we are to survive.  Thus the paradox that only as we lose our life do we find it.

A new breed of biologists and neuroscientists have revealed why we behave in so paradoxical a manner that we continually say one thing, feel something else, and act from an impulse different from either of these.

A major clue to our conflict is the discovery by these new scientists that we have five different neural structures, or brains, within us.  These five systems, four of them housed in our head, represent the whole evolution of life preceding us: reptilian, old mammalian, and human.

“That we are shaped by the culture we create makes it difficult to see that our culture is what must be transcended, which means we must rise above our notions and techniques of survival itself, if we are to survive.  Thus the paradox that only as we lose our life do we find it.”

– Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence, 2014.

As long intuited by poet and saint, the fifth brain in our system lies not in our head, but in our heart, a hard biological fact (to give the devil of science his due) that was unavailable to the pre-scientific world.  Neurocardiology, a new field of medical research, has discovered in our heart a major brain center that functions in dynamic with the fourfold brain in our head.  Outside our conscious awareness, this heart-head dynamic reflects, determines and affects the very nature of our resulting awareness even as it is, in turn, profoundly affected.

From this background I make two proposals here that are necessarily hypothetical:  First, the crux of our ever-present crisis hinges on failure to develop and employ both the fourth and newest brain in our head (one added quite recently in evolutionary history) and its dynamic interactions with our heart brain.  Second, the great saints and spiritual giants of history (even though overlaid with myth and fantasy by cultural counterfeits) point toward, represent, or manifest for us our next evolutionary step, a transcendent event that nature has been trying to unfold for millennia.

From the beginning of our life, the characteristics of each new possibility must be demonstrated for us by someone, some thing, or an event in our immediate environment—but the same chicken-egg paradox will always emerge if we try to determine or bring closure to the riddle of an origin.

This need for a model is acutely the case with a new and unknown form of intelligence such as that offered by our fourth brain and heart brain.  The striking contrast between our ordinary human behavior and the actions of the great beings of our history (Jesus, Krishna, Lao-tzu, Buddha, Eckhart, George Fox, Peace Pilgrim, and a long line of like geniuses) is what makes these figures stand out in time even as shifting or warping history itself.

In every case, however, rather than developing the capacities these great models of history have demonstrated, humankind has projected both the capacities and the image of the models demonstrating them.  That is, we invariably build religions around our spiritual giants or use them to support a religion in order to avoid the radical shift of mind and disruption of culture these rare people bring about, shifts we interpret, ironically, as threats to our survival and thus instinctively reject.  Bio-culture effects, once initiated, tend to self-generate.  Projected by us, we perceive the behaviors demonstrated by our great models as powers out there to which we are subject, rather than as potentials within ourselves to be lived.

As model of a new evolutionary intelligence, Jesus met and continually meets a grim fate at the hands of this cultural effect.  But the cross, the instrument of his execution, symbolizes both death and transcendence for us—our death to culture and our transcendence beyond it.  If we lift the symbol of the cross from its mythical shroud of state-religion and biblical fairy tale—which is to say, if we can rescue Jesus from the Christians—then the cross proves to be the ‘crack” in our cultural cosmic egg.

It is toward this crack that this book points, as did my first book half a century ago.  May this new one throw more light and help us to open ourselves to nature’s new mind, wherein lies our true survival.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material.

About the Book

The Biology of Transcendence uses new research about the brain to explore how we can transcend our current physical and cultural limitations 

• Reveals that transcendence of current modes of existence requires the dynamic interaction of our fourth and fifth brains (intellect and intelligence) 

• Explores the idea that Jesus, Lao-tzu, and other great beings in history are models of nature’s possibility and our ability to achieve transcendence 

• 17,000 sold in hardcover since April 2002 

Why do we seem stuck in a culture of violence and injustice? How is it that we can recognize the transcendent ideal represented by figures such as Jesus, Lao-tzu, and many others who have walked among us and yet not seem to reach the same state? 

In The Biology of Transcendence Joseph Chilton Pearce examines the current biological understanding of our neural organization to address how we can go beyond the limitations and constraints of our current capacities of body and mind–how we can transcend. Recent research in the neurosciences and neurocardiology identifies the four neural centers of our brain and indicates that a fifth such center is located in the heart. This research reveals that the evolutionary structure of our brain and its dynamic interactions with our heart are designed by nature to reach beyond our current evolutionary capacities. We are quite literally, made to transcend. 

Pearce explores how this “biological imperative” drives our life into ever-greater realms of being–even as the “cultural imperative” of social conformity and behavior counters this genetic heritage, blocks our transcendent capacities, and breeds violence in all its forms. The conflict between religion and spirit is an important part of this struggle. But each of us may overthrow these cultural imperatives to reach “unconflicted behavior,” wherein heart and mind-brain resonate in synchronicity, opening us to levels of possibility beyond the ordinary.


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Is The Human Collective Psyche Shifting In These Perilous Times? In The Borderland Of Consciousness https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/12/in-the-borderland-of-consciousness/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/12/in-the-borderland-of-consciousness/#respond Mon, 30 Dec 2019 02:21:14 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=23599 In the Borderland of Consciousness Is the human collective psyche shifting in these perilous times? As noted in the prior related post, Jerome Bernstein (2005) was pushed into changing his therapeutic practice. He encountered many people whose childhoods could not explain their current agitation. At the same time, he was exposed to a worldview that took […]]]>

In the Borderland of Consciousness

Is the human collective psyche shifting in these perilous times?

As noted in the prior related post, Jerome Bernstein (2005) was pushed into changing his therapeutic practice. He encountered many people whose childhoods could not explain their current agitation. At the same time, he was exposed to a worldview that took into account all of nature in designing cures that healed people. Specifically, he learned from Navajo healers.

Bernstein describes his journey from the typical medical model of psychotherapeutic cure to a model more comfortable with mystery, client uniqueness, and connection to natural entities. He is optimistic about the evolution of the psyche, rooted in Jungian understandings of a collective unconscious guiding human societies.

But first, according to Bernstein, whence and what has the human psyche become?

“This new (evolved) psyche struck the death knell for oral tradition and all that it represents as the carrier of a particular kind of magic and numinosity no longer known, for the most part, in western culture. Lost were not only stories about the history of now-forgotten cultures but so were certain techniques and ways of healing based on magic, and along with them certain types of psychic/mental processes, psychic/mental ways of being. Different forms of intuition and the conscious use of body awareness for apprehending information in the environment as well as communication between individuals and groups and with animals are unknown to most of us today. Subtly, we substituted hearing for listening, the latter determined as much by that which is listened to, as by the one listening. This new psyche also made it possible for us to mentalize spirituality through an intellectualized focus on words of prayer and (written) song.” (p. 28)

Lost was the ability to deeply know and be touched instead of only understanding, believing, and remembering. Lost was an awareness of the multiple intelligences in the natural world, sentience, and power to relate and heal within the natural world.

Bob Samples (1976) similarly noted:

“The metaphoric mind is a maverick. It is as wild and unruly as a child. It follows us doggedly and plagues us with its presence as we wander the contrived corridors of rationality. It is a metaphoric link with the unknown called religion that causes us to build cathedrals — and the very cathedrals are built with rational, logical plans. When some personal crisis or the bewildering chaos of everyday life closes in on us, we often rush to worship the rationally-planned cathedral and ignore the religion. Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine” (p. 26).

Iain McGilchrist (2009) also noted this shift in consciousness in the western world. He uses the metaphor from the story of the master and his emissary for the title of his book: the master sends his emissary around the empire and pretty soon the emissary starts to think he is in charge.

This is the shift to what can be called “system 2” (Kahneman, 2011). Much of human behavior is governed by subconscious or implicit systems (“system 1;” Kahneman, 2011). But as I have pointed out (Narvaez, 2014), “system 1” capacities must be well-formed, initially in early life and thereafter within “kind” environments that train up intuition well. If not, a person will have various dysregulated systems that undermine judgment and action (e.g., insecure attachment, over or under-reactive stress response).

Bernstein summarizes:

“Characteristic of the western ego is a consciousness not merged with nature, but wholly cleaved from it. Therefore it is not a diffuse consciousness, but rather a primarily “solar” consciousness: Intensely focused, highly mental, abstract, categorical, mathematical, mechanical, and wedded to linear time. This consciousness is more comfortable with hearing than listening, more focused on the head (literally) than the body…This ego has spawned all that we have come to associate with western civilization: the sciences and the technologies…” (p. 33) but is “readily trapped in its own mentalisms…tends to be addicted to power and materialism, and thus has also spawned modern warfare with the capacity to eliminate life as we know it” (p. 34)…”the repression of the nonrational dimension because a defining characteristic, if not an obsession, of ego self-preservation” (p. 35)

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

When Bernstein’s approach to therapeutic healing repeatedly failed with multiple clients, he paid more attention to the Navajo manner of healing, and to their worldview. Instead of viewing the non-human world as comprised of inert, dead objects, the Navajo and other indigenous peoples “experience and related to a living universe…[where] respect for other life-forms filters into [their] every action” (P. Deloria, 2000, p. 6).

Bernstein’s clients experienced the feelings of animals and plants around them, much like indigenous peoples around the world (e.g., Descola, 2013; Narvaez et al., 2019) or they experienced a “great grief” at the general destruction of the natural world. They were experiencing the transrational, what the western ego seeks to suppress, but according to the Jungian analysis breaks through via dreams and feelings.

These sensitive people Bernstein calls “Borderlanders” because they display the shift of the psyche to a new form, one that integrates the rational ego and the nature consciousness of the prior psyches. The shift is driven by what Bernstein describes as an evolutionary process of species preservation. Children are often Borderlanders in that they are attuned to the animals and plants around them (assuming immersion in nature) but are taught that such sensitivities are imaginal and are ridiculed if they express sensitivity once in school. Artistic, creative people typically maintain their relationship with the transrational, feeling out of step with the rest of society.

Other Borderlanders are brought to their insights through trauma of one kind or another that promotes dissociation from the traumatic experience and the self experiencing it, instilling a transrational perspective of something beyond the trauma and an ability to enter liminal space.

In the next post, I describe some of his clients’ experiences of the Borderland.


Approaching the Borderland of Transformation, Part 1

Do You Feel Grief for the Natural World? You may be experiencing the transrational borderland, Part 2

In the Borderland of Consciousness. Is the human collective psyche shifting in these perilous times? Part 3 (this page)


Bernstein, J.S. (2005). Living in the Borderland: The evolution of consciousness and the challenge of healing trauma. New York: Routledge.

Deloria, P. (1998). Playing Indian. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Macmillan.

McGilchrist, I. (2009). The master and his emissary: The divided brain and the making of the western world.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing. New York: Peter Lang.

Samples, B. (1976), The metaphoric mind: A celebration of creative consciousness Addison- Reading, Massachusetts: Wesley Publishing Company.

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