Archive for the ‘Future Positive’ Category

Nature Has a Mind of Its Own

Monday, August 5th, 2013 Positive — Christian de Quincey writes: The great American psychologist William James had just finished a lecture on the nature of reality when a little old lady approached him. “Excuse me, Professor,” she said, “but I’m afraid you’ve got it all wrong. The world is really supported on the back of a great big turtle.”

The venerable professor, being a gentleman, decided to humor the woman: “Tell me, then, what is holding the turtle up?”

Quick as a flash, the old lady snapped back: “Another turtle, of course.”

“And what’s supporting that turtle?” James asked, trying gently to get her to see her mistake. The conversation went on like this for another round or two until the little old lady interrupted with a noticeable tremor of exasperation:

“Save your breath, sonny. It’s turtles all the way down.”

At least so the story goes (though some associate it with Bertrand Russell instead of William James). True or not, the “turtle” incident illustrates a fundamental intuition we all share about the nature of reality: Something can’t come from nothing. Something must “go all the way down” or all the way back. Even the Big Bang must have had some kind of “fuse.” (Religions, of course, say it was God.)

James was teaching around the turn of the last century, but the little old lady’s point still carries force. In the modern-day version, turtles are replaced by consciousness. The question now is not what is holding the world up, but where did mind or consciousness come from? In a purely physical universe, the existence of mind is a profound puzzle. And if we are to believe the standard scientific view on this, then mind emerged from wholly mindless matter. But just how this occurred remains a complete mystery. In fact, in Radical Nature, I make the case that it couldn’t happen without a miracle. And miracles have no place in science. Instead, our best option is to revive the old lady’s insight and proclaim that “consciousness goes all the way down.” Mind has always existed in the universe. Cosmos — the world of nature — has a mind of its own.

What’s the greatest mystery facing every person on the planet? Ultimately, it’s some version of the age-old “Where do I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” And these questions, which lie at the heart of all philosophy and religion, can be summed up as: “How do I fit in?” How do we humans (with our rich interior lives of emotions, feelings, imaginations, and ideas) fit into the world around us? According to science, the world is made up of mindless, soulless, purely physical atoms and energy. So far, no one has a satisfactory explanation for the existence of nonphysical minds in this otherwise physical universe.

We lack an explanation because our questions already assume something quite disturbing. We assume we are split from nature. We assume that humans are somehow special, that we have minds or souls while the rest of nature doesn’t. Some of us draw the “soul line” at higher animals and some of us draw it at living organisms; few of us draw no line at all. Ask yourself: Are rocks conscious? Do animals or plants have souls? Have you ever wondered whether worms or insects might feel pain or pleasure? Can trees feel anything at all? Your answers will reveal where you are likely to draw the line.

In philosophy, this is called the “consciousness cut.” Where, in the great unfolding of evolution, did consciousness first appear? In contemporary philosophy and science, the cut-off is usually made at brains — if not human brains, then the brains of higher mammals. Only creatures with highly developed brains or nervous systems possess consciousness, so the scientific story goes.

Because of our assumed “specialness,” because of the deep fissure between humans and the rest of nature, and because of the mind-body split, we need a new understanding of how we — ensouled, embodied humans — fit into the world of nature. Our current worldview, based on the materialist philosophy of modern science, presents us with a stark and alienating vision of a world that is intrinsically devoid of meaning, of purpose, of value — a world without a mind of its own, a world without soul. And this worldview has had dramatic and catastrophic consequences for our environment, for countless species of animals and plants, and for the ecosystems that sustain us all. (08/05/2013)


World Peace and Other Infinite Possibilities

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

John HunterFuture Positive— Karyn M. Peterson interviews Educator, John Hunter. At the start of a national tour to promote his new book about his experiences teaching the game, World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements (Houghton Harcourt, 2013), Hunter addressed the crowd at SLJ’s recent Public Library Leadership Think Tank, then sat down to speak to us about unlocking kids’ infinite potential, his faith in kids to improve our world, and how he daily inspires (and is inspired by) his students.

At our Think Tank, you spoke about the lasting impact of even the smallest gestures. Can you tell us more about this concept?

We are completely interdependent; this is what I’ve come to understand and see. Everything I do is important to someone in that room or someone connected to them. So I’m obligated to do the best that I possibly can every moment. I constantly have to work at that every day so that I can be less of a barrier or an obstacle to their learning. My students have come back over decades now to let me know the range and effect of gestures I’ve made, of words I’ve said, of things we’ve done. And I’m sure every teacher has instances like this. So this circle of influence that you might have can be so broad. …

Did you always want to be a teacher?

Really, in some ways I’m an introvert who just happens to appear to be an extrovert. There was a moment in Japan—I’m sitting in this 500-year-old cypress wood meditation hall on a bamboo-covered mountainside near the Sea of Japan—and I thought, ‘You know, this is where I should be. I really don’t need to go anywhere else.’ But I had obligations; I had things to do in the world. Had I not been a teacher, I was very inclined to find a place like that and simply go into meditation.

So how do you summon your inner extrovert? Or embrace it?

The foundation was of course, I had a very happy life. My parents were both very sweet and loving, so it was a very quiet family life. And that calm safety that we had in the home made a comfort in the world. And so going out into it, I didn’t feel defensive or afraid.

How that transformed to be more of a performance art, like teaching? Well, it was called for. In a classroom…[you] really bring every tool that you have to the situation. You adapt and become whatever creature you must. You’re an academic and social amphibian; you grow gills when you have to and you drop fins when you have to, to help children be what they need to be.  And playing in a band doesn’t hurt either! I had a studio practice for about 20 years, sound design, ambient music, Waveform Records. It’s still something I do in what little spare time I have.

Do you bring music into the classroom as well?

Absolutely! Some children like it to be quiet, so we’re quiet sometimes, but there may be some Miles Davis in the background, “Sketches of Spain,” something very open and spacious.

I take the children through different modalities of thinking using Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, [with] eight different pieces of music, all within the space of an hour. It’s astounding what they do in that time [and] music is the springboard for that. I want them to have an expanded world, so I’m playing Indonesian gamelan or opera arias or glitchcore from Vladislav Delay, this Finnish DJ—something they’re not going to run into on the radio or around the house.

And the library was fundamental in that, too! In the Richmond Public Library when I was a young man, I would go and check out  records. I listened to Turkish music, to music from the bauls of India. That library was instrumental in my becoming who I was musically.

How has your teaching shaped your vision of the future?

I’m completely optimistic. There is no doubt in my mind that high school students can save this planet completely, in every way. No doubt. They’re relentlessly compassionate. The more we empower those young people to be in charge…the better off we’ll be.

Is compassion the most important legacy of your World Peace game?

How else can we be if we’re going to survive? It’s our fundamental as human beings…preemptively going at things with kindness gives a little bit of ease to every difficult situation we face. (06/03/2013)


Awakening Your Unique Self

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Marc Gafni

*** Registration is still open, and you can download any sessions you that you miss.

Awakening Your Unique Self — Marc Gafni writes: My new book Your Unique Self which came out recently, represents 30 years of teaching, and you could say is the culmination of my life’s work to date in this area. It has been a delight and blessing to hear so much gratitude and appreciation from people who’ve read it.

The teaching of Unique Self is so fundamental to our world right now I’ve been working hard to weave it’s principles into a course that will allow anyone to experience the power of it.

And I want you to come and study with me on it.So, to give you a flavor of what’s available I’ve put together a free mini-course. It’s a great way to take a quick, yet deep dive into the Unique Self teaching. All you need is an email address to sign up.

Free Awakening Your Unique Self Mini-Course (self-paced)

Or, if you want to just jump right into the paid full 10-week course, you can find the registration info below.

10-Week Awakening Your Unique Self (led by me over the phone and online)

Our full 10-week course which starts this week on April 24th is not merely information, it is a tested wisdom process honed over the last two decades. It is a direct and guided transmission of the love, insight, and practice which is necessary to Awaken into and as Your Unique Self. This course provides the process and community to help you realize the next stage of your life and make dreams long forgotten, or dreams you never dared to dream, become a genuine possibility in your life. Life is inviting you right now — if you are moved and audacious — to take a unique risk and sign up as a dramatic and tender act of self love. Love, as we will learn in the course, is a Unique Self perception. Self love begins with the first glimmer of perception of Your Evolutionary Unique Self in its radiant and actualized possibility.

I want to invite you, encourage you, urge you with all my heart to join me for this course.

  * * *

Timothy Wilken, MD writes: I am very impressed with Marc Gafni. The breadth of his knowledge is staggering. He is a master teacher. He has been studying Hebrew Mysticism and seeking Enlightenment for 30 years.

I first became aware of Gafni in early 2008. He had resumed teaching here in America, and his work was highly recommended to me by someone I greatly respected. I had the privilege of actually hearing him speak at a local church in the Monterey area, and decided that I needed to examine his work more carefully. In past four years, I have read two of his books, Soul Prints and The Mystery of Love, both which impressed me.

I then obtained and listened to recordings of his Soul Prints Workshop recorded in 2004 and to The EROTIC and the HOLY Workshop recorded in 2006. I found them both so compelling, I have listened to the 15 hours of recordings many times. I also signed up and paid  for a number of his online courses , and found them all of great value. I am currently reading his latest book Your Unique Self . I can’t recommend his teachings too strongly. (04/22/2013)


Helping Ourselves

Sunday, April 21st, 2013 Gifting Earth — Timothy Wilken writes: Dearest Community, I want to share a powerful new tool for co-operation with you.

This tool is a gift from me to you — a gift from me to every member of my human family. It is available as a free online website that enables a community of users to easily help and be helped through the gifting and sharing of: Goods, Services, Knowledge and Compassion.

I want to thank all of you that have joined us. If you haven’t joined yet, it’s really easy, just click on the New Account link at the top of every page on TGE. Then you can begin to help others by gifting and sharing, and others can begin to help you by gifting and sharing.

Why The Gifting Earth?

We humans are really one people. We share one earth — breathe one air — drink one water.

The impact of our human oneness means that we are an interdependent species — sometimes I will need your help, and sometimes you will need mine.

We are at our best when we work together and trust each other.

How does it work?

The Gifting Earth is based on one rule: Be Love.

If you choose to Be Love then you can only Do Good, and if you only Do Good, you will discover that your community so values you that it will insure that you Have Everything you need and want.

What is it?

Imagine a world where Co-Operation has displaced Market — a world where GIFTors and GIFTees have displaced sellers and buyers.

In your role as a GIFTor, you will help others within the community. In your role as a GIFTee, you will be helped by other members within the community.

So Be Love, Do Good, and Have Everything.

When humans work together, we can solve the most difficult of problems, and really make the world a much better place for all of us. As John Lennon once wrote:

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world …

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

Someday is here! See the Video and then join us at The Gifting Earth! You are welcome to share this message with anyone you like. The more of us gifting and sharing, the better our world can be! (04/21/2013)


The Gifting Earth — Why-How-What

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Future Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: Happy Leonardo Day, April 15, 2013. GIFTing has been activated at The Gifting Earth website. Members can now begin helping each other with gifting and sharing.





The Gifting Earth — How does it work?

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: The Gifting Earth is a free online system that enables its members to help each other through the gifting and sharing of: Goods, Services, Knowledge, and Compassion.

I am a synergic scientist. The word synergy derives from two Greek roots: erg meaning “to work,” and syn meaning “together;” hence, the term synergy simply means “working together.” Synergic science is the study of working together. It is a relatively new science, but it has produced a powerful new understanding of human behavior and of human organization. Synergic science reveals a relatively simple solution to our present human difficulties. That solution requires that we work together and act responsibly.

One of the discoveries of synergic science is that the best organizations – the most efficient, the most productive and those wherein the members are the most happy – are those organizations where the participants have win-win relationships with each other. …

When you become a member of The Gifting Earth (TGE), you enter into the world of co-Operation, here you also have a dual role. You will be both a GIFTor and a GIFTee. You will post the Gifts you would like give or share with other members of the community in your role as a GIFTor. You will also post the Needs you would like to receive or borrow from other members of the community in your role as a GIFTee.

Almost any good or service can be gifted or shared on TGE. Our database is organized into four general classes of Gifts and Needs.

1) Goods – THINGS: Any material object that has value. This would include: tools, appliances, electronics, computers, telephones, equipment of any kind, lawnmowers, house furniture, household goods, furnishings, materials, supplies, foods and even large things like automobiles, or houses. Any material object that is of value can provide some good to the user, hence the term goods.

You can give Goods away fully or only gift the use of them for a specified time. Location is very important for the gift of using a tool or appliance, perhaps less important if the item is given away fully.

Things that are gifted can be new or used. Working or not working. The important thing is to describe the offered gift accurately. A television repairman might like the gift of an old TV, that he will repair and use or gift to someone else. So your description of an offered gift needs to be very accurate. No one will be criticized for gifting junk as long as they describe it accurately as junk. Those seeking junk will be happy. Remember one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

2) Services – ACTIONS: Projects, Labor (skilled and unskilled), Jobs and Tasks. This could be as simple as baby sitting, or giving someone a ride to as complex as building a room on someone’s house or writing a custom software program, etc., etc., etc.. It could be a million and one different forms of helping provided by humans in action. Location is very important. Many services would only available locally.

3) Knowledge – KNOWING: Expertise, Consultations, Counseling, and Advise. Those humans with expertise in almost any field can make that expertise available to others as a gift. Physicians, Attorneys, Accountants, Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication. Knowing can also be available in the form or books, art, courses, online files, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication.

4) Compassion – KINDNESS: Empathy, Sympathy, Love, and Support. Compassion is a very personal form of gift. It is the most human of gifts. Compassion can come in many forms. It may just be lending an ear, holding space with another, or holding someone’s hand. Those humans with experience of the difficult challenges encountered in life can share the lessons they have learned from those challenges with others as a gift. Those that have lost the most, have often learned the greatest lessons. Those that have faced Death in the form of Cancer, Major Injury or Illness, and those that have lost loved ones — children, spouses, or parents, may be best prepared to help their fellow humans who face similar challenges. Because the personal touch is so powerful with Compassion, this gift is often best given locally, but location may be less important with the growing power of internet communication — such as Skype and FaceTime. (03/16/2013)


Storing Sonnets on DNA?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

NPR  — English critic Samuel Johnson once said of William Shakespeare “that his drama is the mirror of life.” Now the Bard’s words have been translated into life’s most basic language. British scientists have stored all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets on tiny stretches of DNA.

It all started with two men in a pub. Ewan Birney and Nick Goldman, both scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute, were drinking beer and discussing a problem.

Their institute manages a huge database of genetic information: thousands and thousands of genes from humans and corn and pufferfish. That data — and all the hard drives and the electricity used to power them — is getting pretty expensive.”The data we’re being asked to be guardians of is growing exponentially,” Goldman says. “But our budgets are not growing exponentially.”

It’s a problem faced by many large companies with expanding archives. Luckily, the solution was right in front of the researchers — they worked with it every day. “We realized that DNA itself is a really efficient way of storing information,” Goldman says.

DNA is nature’s hard drive, a permanent record of genetic information written in a chemical language. There are just four letters in DNA’s alphabet — the four nucleotides commonly abbreviated as A, C, G and T.

When these letters are arranged in different ways, they spell out different instructions for our cells. Some 3 billion of those letters make up the human genome — the entire instruction manual for our existence. And all that information is stuffed into each cell in our bodies. DNA is millions of times more compact than the hard drive in your computer.

The challenge before Goldman and his colleagues was to make DNA store a digital file instead of genetic information. “So over a second beer, we started to write on napkins and sketch out some details of how that might be made to work,” Goldman says.

They started with a text file of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In the computer’s most basic language, it existed as a series of zeroes and ones. With a simple cipher, the scientists translated these zeroes and ones into the letters of DNA.

And then they did the same for the rest of Shakespeare’s sonnets, an audio clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and a picture of their office. They sent that code off to Agilent Technologies, a biotech company. Agilent synthesized the DNA and mailed it back to Goldman. (01/27/13)


The Need for Community

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Janet Surrey to the right of her husband.

Future PositiveJanet Surrey writes: As a psychotherapist I am continually moved by the anguish of isolation so many experience. Like fish with water, we hardly see the pervasiveness of this condition for our being in the world. Whatever we try to do to relieve this suffering—through denial of our deepest needs for connection, to materialistic pursuits, or to compulsive social or work activities—we are haunted by the “dis-ease” of separation and cannot rest and take refuge in our families or communities. The breakdown in community in the U.S. has been documented by many scholars, and the resultant loneliness and alienation are revealed in the high rates of depression, addiction, anxiety and violence. People in our society feel fundamentally separate, cut off from each other and disconnected from the natural world. We can see our isolation through the lens of the First Noble Truth, which points to the suffering of the separate self. The greater the fundamental attachment to self, the more we suffer.

Particularly in the United States, our cultural ideals support individualism, competition, denial of vulnerability and independence. Relationships are valued as supports or buttresses to the self. But like hungry ghosts we still yearn for the stability and continuity of deep community. When offered the opportunity, however, we often cannot drink fully; our thirst becomes painful and leads us to develop strategies to deny or to avoid feeling our yearnings. The problem is both external—lack of available communities—and internal—the ways we hold ourselves back from surrendering to relationships. Our default position of alienation or non-belonging is often a consequence of painful experiences that lead us to mistrust and run when the going gets rough. We run for protection toward isolation or search for new and improved relationships or communities. Yet we also seek spiritual practices and communities to restore or realign ourselves to our most fundamental condition of interconnectedness or “interbeing.”

In the early years of my own Theravadan practice, the emphasis on individual, solitary practice often seemed to me to be supporting the Western value of self-sufficiency as well as celebrating the heroic, solitary journey. We practiced together in groups for weeks but never even learned each other’s names. We sensed the underlying power of community in practice but didn’t realize this in real relationship. The practice of taking refuge in sangha seemed to be the stepchild or foundational support to practice, rather than practice itself. The solitary Buddha was the icon, even though in truth the Buddha spent very few days alone, living most of his eighty years in community.

I was later drawn to practice with Thich Nhat Hahn, who seems to intuitively understand the overwhelming suffering of isolation in the West. He emphasizes building local and worldwide communities and teaches the practice of “learning to see with Sangha eyes.” To build “good enough” communities that are not there solely to serve or support us, we need to do the work of inventing or embracing practices that support and nurture sangha, that help us to become “good enough” members of a community. Perhaps we need to add a teaching on “right relationship” to the Eightfold Path.

Two years ago at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, I heard teacher Eugene Cash offer a reordering of the Three Jewels from the usual “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha” to the new “Sangha, Dharma, Buddha.” Even though the Buddha was clear that these refuges are interdependent and co-arising, in our own rank-ordering culture, first is best, most valuable, on top. It is in this reordering that I believe the Twelve Step programs offer a profound vision and practical experience of taking refuge in the sangha. (01-08-13)


Your Unique Self and The Only Thing That Matters

Monday, October 29th, 2012 Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: I am currently reading two new books that may be among the most important books ever written to address our changing times. Even though I haven’t yet finished either book, I am so excited that I had to tell you a little bit about them.

The first is the latest book from a teacher of mine, Marc Gafni. It is called Your Unique Self. I am about half way through and am finding it to be of great value. Marc believes that enlightenment is a human behavior that is available to any human who takes the time to understand and work the process. This makes it one of the most optimistic books every written. …

I have also started reading a new book by Neal Donald Walsch called The Only Thing That Matters. There is an enormous amount of wisdom in both Walsh’s and Gafni’s books, and I am not yet finished, I am hopeful that both of these books can communicate effectively with my brothers and sisters on the path. I have purchased extra copies of both books for my family and friends. (10/29/12)


Imagine There’s No Market

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: Imagine a community where the members freely help each other by gifting Goods, Services, Knowledge and Compassion. Where they help each other unconditionally just because they want too.

There are no exchanges. No bartering. No haggling. Just people helping people.  The market roles of sellers and buyers have been transformed into the co-operative roles of GIFTors and GIFTees.  Imagine a new system where every member is both a giver and a receiver of help. As a GIFTor, you meet the needs of other members with your gifts. As GIFTee, your needs are met by receiving the gifts of other members.

Our members understand that we humans are an INTERdependent species —that we depend on each other —that sometimes I will need your help, and sometimes you will need mine.

Imagine the community has a website that displays all the available gifts and all the current needs of its members for browsing and searching. It serves to connect those with gifts to those with needs, and those with needs to those with gifts.

Whenever a gift is given or a need is met, the gifting event is rated by both the GIFTor and the GIFTee. These ratings from one to five stars as well as optional written comments become a permanent part of our member profiles, and serve to inform all members in future gifting events. Within our imagined community, helping others is an open and transparent process.

When you request a gift from another member, they have the opportunity to view your membership history, profile, and read the comments made about your previous gifting events. They may or may not offer the gift to you. All gifting is voluntary.

When you are offered a gift from another member, you have the same opportunity to view their membership history, profile, and read the comments made about their previous gifting events. You may or may not accept the offered gift. All receiving of gifts is voluntary.

When both a GIFTor and GIFTee agree to a gifting event they are provided with contact information so they can meet in the real world.

This gifting process is a move from Market to Co-operation. Our relationships with each other are naturally personal, supportive, and caring. We do best when we treat each other as loving family.

Within gifting community, you will soon discover that the best strategy is to Be Love and to Do Good. Your goodness will be of such value to gifting community, that you can trust the gifting community to insure that you Have Everything you need. (09/13/12)