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Gaming the Future

Gaming The Future introduces how an emerging cluster of social entrepreneurs, academic institutions and public agencies in Asheville, North Carolina are utilizing powerful interactive visualization technologies and decision-support techniques to explore new ways of imagining, planning and building a climate adaptive workforce and climate resilient society…for an economically and environmentally sustainable future.

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Earthanima Enchantment

Earthanima: Enchantment from The Earthanima Project on Vimeo.

Offering of art, heart, earth and imagination… an invitation to play with connection and relation.

How can beauty and imagination guide us in living more compassionately in relationship with our planet, ourselves and each other?

Now is a great opportunity for you to open space for exploration and meditation with the images from Earthanima by participating in this campaign for collectively funding the journey of this artist.

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At Home in the World

First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First Train home
(soundtrack for this post)

So what? What matters to you?
What are your strongest feelings? What is your central wish? What stirs your inmost being?

Are you home yet?
Lying awake, enchanted by the natural world, caressed by the powers that envelope you, genuinely relating to the beings and things in your life, aligned with a divine presence that permeates everything? everything? It’s there… is it here? Can you see it? Can you touch and taste and smell and hear that divine immanence resonating in the world around you? through you? connecting you… to you… to me… to a tree… to much, much more than we can see? Can you feel it? Is it here?

A lover is trying to seduce us into her wonder and mystery, into the heart of her beauty, home. Day by day, moment by moment, the waters of life are pouring forth into our soul, fed by the little encounters of being that happen without effort… simply because we are alive. We are alive! Can you feel it?

This week three men and the lineages, teachings, and life experiences they embody are helping me travel home. Their messages and essence swirl in my being, chemical reactions activating holy sparks and snapping authentic living into the cells of my waking body.

ahhhhhh
{{{ insert your favorite sound for the divine here }}}
{{{along with one deep breath }}}

You can read my full notes from an evening hearing Brian Swimme, the next night listening to Bill Plotkin, and all the while reading Martin Buber‘s book, The Way of Man. And below (as well as above) are some of the pieces that are cooking me… igniting me… wanting to be shared!

Brian Swimme’s central point was that we humans have forgotten the sacred dimension of nature. We need to renew our capacities to recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world. He believes that people have a deep hunger to:

  • Know how we fit in
  • Make sense of the world
  • Live in alignment with the powers that envelope us, with the divine presence that permeates everything

Buber says that here is a fulfillment of existence that a quiet devoted relationship to nearby life can give us. Developing genuine relationships with the beings and things in whose lives we get to be in, a mutual gift, creates true, fulfilled existence.

By hallowing our relationship with the things and beings that we meet on our way and that attract our hearts, we get in touch “with what manifests itself in them as beauty, pleasure, enjoyment. Hasidism teaches that rejoicing in the world, if we hallow it with our whole being, leads to rejoicing in God.” (Buber)

Bill Plotkin defines soul as “our place in the world.” He sees a true adult as someone who knows how they belong to more than the human world. They understand their place in nature, not just their place in culture.

He talks about how we humans long for our own unique and vibrant participation (membership) in a world that works for all beings. At a soul level we want to be contributing, being of service, and we want to feel at home in the world. We can both contribute and thus feel at home in the world by embodying our deepest passion. Plotkin believes that each individual has gifts, ways of being of service, they were born to embody. Finding our service is both deeply fulfilling and incredibly challenging. Embodying those gifts that are unique to each of us is the biggest contribution to social change that we can make.

And Buber supports this belief,

Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. ‘It is the duty of every person… to know and consider that he is unique in the world in his particular character and that there has never been anyone like him in the world, for if there had been someone like him, there would have been no need for him to be in the world…

Every man’s foremost task is the actualization of his unique, unprecedented and never-recurring potentialities…‘Everyone has in him something precious that is in no one else.’ But this precious something in a man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being…

He must find his own self, not the trivial ego of the egotistic individual, but the deeper self of the person living in a relationship to the world…. A man [must see] himself … as a genuine person, whose transformation helps towards the transformation of the world… The task of man, of every man, according to Hasidic teaching, is to affirm for God’s sake the world and himself and by this very means to transform both.

And in order to “belong to the world in the ways nature birthed us,” Plotklin acknowledges the challenge for many of feeling at home in the world. Most people have never learned to feel themselves as a natural element in the world and so cannot feel a part of it and at home in it. Not feeling at home in the world creates a core restlessness and anxiety. Humans have the ability to experience the enchantment of the natural world, they can learn how to be at home in the world and wonder about the world. Feeling at home in the world leads to treating the world as our home. And as these men point out, in order to do so, we must recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world.

Swimme uses the story of the cosmos to paint visions of and personify some of the wonderment and divine essence of the universe. For instance, he explains that the atoms of our skin and the air that we breathe are from an exploding star.

Carbon and oxygen exist in the core of a star. When a star explodes it releases these and many other elements into the universe. Our own solar system and planet with its minerals and life forms were created out of these supernova explosions. Every single atom of carbon and oxygen (of which humans are made of) is foraged in stars. The atoms of our skin are from an exploding star. In order for these atoms to exist, stars had to blow up. “I am a cosmological event!” (source)

And when I breathe, I breathe the creations of stars. All the life I will live is possible because of the gifts of those stars. These facts/stories help to illustrate for me the immensity of each moment and they invite me into a direct experience of the divine presence that exists in the natural world.

And then Swimme teaches about the sun. Every second our sun is transforming 4 million tons of itself into light. The sun doesn’t get back that energy. Once it transforms itself into light, the light disperses in all directions. The sun gives it away. Everything that’s happened in the life of this planet is directly dependent upon that light. We’re moving here and talking and thinking only because coursing through our bodies is the energy from the sun. All of human activity is powered by the generosity of the sun. Our existence directly depends upon the giveaway of the sun; this is a real sacrificial, ongoing event. (source)

All of these men are extending deep invitations to directly experience the divine presence permeating the world. The Baal-Shem (founder of Hasidism) teaches that no encounter with a being or a thing in the course of our life lacks a hidden significance. ‘God dwells wherever man lets him in.’

To go, to go, to go
Get, get, get, get
Out, out, out, out
Now, now, now, now
soundtrack by Imogen Heap!

                    
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Climate Change Protection in Austin City

I’m excited to share with you some news about the city of Austin’s progressive steps towards addressing climate change and how my friend, Jake Stewart, continues to live his passion and compassion into action. Here is the latest word from Jake:

I have accepted a position with Austin Energy/City of Austin to run the newly proposed Climate Change Protection Program. Austin wishes to be the nation’s leader in Climate Change action while becoming an innovative hub for green technology; it has set the very progressive goal of being effectively carbon neutral by 2020. It will be my job, along with a great team, to make that happen using all the pieces on the proverbial ‘chess board’.

Like many, I believe there is no greater issue that defines our dedication to future generations than ensuring the stability and health of the climate and the planet we inhabit. I’m looking forward to focusing my energy and intention on having some small and positive impact on this critical front.

Though this means a slight course adjustment career-wise, I am very excited about the opportunity to work in this important and largely uncharted territory. I also realize I am accepting an enormous challenge in this program but I’m confident that it is the right move at the right time.

I will still maintain some involvement in the biofuels industry, particularly in policy and sustainability efforts but I thought it worth a quick note to let everyone know where I am heading.

Thank you, Jake, for being such a leader in both following your heart and mind’s calling and dedicating such energy and passion to the things you are involved in… and for continuing to open new doors and pathways for increasing care and responsibility for and with our planet.

P.s. Here are some older posts related to Jake’s work with Biodiesel (more).

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Imagine if everything man made was sacred.

Photo: Earthrise from Moon-Orbiting Kaguya
Credit & Copyright: SELENE Team, JAXA, NHK

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Visualizing the Number of Humans on the Planet

When I try to comprehend the facts of our world, I frequently feel baffled. The profoundness of living on this Earth with all of its diversity of life, land, inhabitants, people’s lifestyles, values, habits, things that happen, things that don’t happen, etc… It’s incredible and so far beyond my ability to comprehend.

I was recently wondering :

What does the number of humans on the planet look like?

I realized I didn’t have the capacity to conceptualize that answer. And so I sent my question to one of my new conceptualization gurus, Chris Jordan. I’d love to share with all of you his generous response in full.

Your question is interesting, because I just recently got to see a profound and moving demonstration of what 6 billion humans look like. It is called the Salt Monument, and it resides in the home of an extraordinary woman named Margot who lives alone in Boulder Colorado. She had an idea something like fifteen years ago to create a living monument containing the number of grains of salt equal to all of the members of the human race. After a long design process that included some engineering, she constructed a huge plexiglass cube in her living room, about seven feet in diameter, and mounted it diagonally onto a burly metal support structure. At the top is an opening into which salt can be poured, and at the bottom is a valve from which salt can be drained. Initially she filled the cube with a number of salt grains (carefully estimated with the use of accurate scales) equal to the then-population of the earth: 4.2 billion people (that was ten years ago). Then, every day, she adds salt at the top equal to the number of people born that day, and she removes salt from the bottom, equal to the number of people who died that day. The whole structure weighs more than a ton.

Along the side of the cube is a scale that shows the progress of time. At the very bottom there is a line that shows the world’s population back around the time of Jesus; it is something like one quart of salt, a few hundred thousand people or so on the whole earth (or maybe it was a few million, but a tiny fraction of today’s population in any event). Then the scale goes up toward the surface of the salt, showing the world’s population increase over time. A whole millennium goes by in between 500 million and 1 billion. Then two billion takes a few centuries. Three billion comes in one century. Four billion comes in a few decades. Five and six billion have come in the last ten years. The exponential growth of our population is astonishingly visible and incredibly frightening.

Every day Margot conducts an elaborate ceremony to mark the passing of 170,000 people, and the birth of 300,000 people. Even if someone dies completely alone and unknown, their passage will be honored by this ceremony— as has everyone who has died in the world in the last ten years. The 170,000 grains of salt taken from the bottom of the monument are dissolved into a large glass jar of water (it is about a teaspoon of salt). The jar stays there for several months, so all of the salt from that time period is dissolved in the jar. The jar then goes in a display cabinet along with the jars from other years. Inside the jar over years, the dissolved salt re-forms into arrays of big clear square crystals that look like miniature versions of the monument.

The salt that Margot adds every day to represent the 300,000 people born gets poured into the top; it is about two teaspoons if I remember correctly. It lands on the surface of the salt below, making a symmetrical cone over time. Each year she flattens the cone out and starts over, so you can see what the year-to-date births look like (a growing cone on the otherwise flat surface, about the size of a large plate of spaghetti when I saw it in October). The one-day old babies are represented at the very top, and the two week-olds are a bigger part of the pile below that, and the 3-month-olds are all in a layer below that, and so on, down to the bottom of the monument, where are the old people are. Each grain of salt will take one human lifetime to pass from the top to the bottom and out.

Around the room she has placed exhibits of different amounts of salt, for scale. There is a black dish with one grain of salt in it; it is the very small kind of salt, where one grain is almost as small as a piece of dust. There is another plate with ten grains, another with 100, another with 3000 (the number of Americans who died on 9/11— much less than the number of people who starved to death elsewhere in the world that same day); the number of people who die from AIDS every year, the number of people worldwide who commit suicide, die in auto accidents, and a few others. These exhibits were mostly about a teaspoon in size, but of course some of the piles where huge compared to one grain.

In juxtaposition, the cube in the middle of the room is astonishing, breathtaking, and incomprehensible. It contains 1900 pounds of salt, equal to the size of several refrigerators. I stood looking closely at it for the longest time, trying to imagine all of the grains of salt that were hidden from view inside the volume of the cube. If I looked very closely, I could make out individual grains of salt right up against the glass, but otherwise it was a sea of whiteness— even a few inches from my face I could not make out individual grains. The amount of grains of salt was far beyond my ability to grasp. I felt like I never even came close to getting my arms around it despite trying pretty hard in a meditative state for more than an hour. I wondered what the Monument would look like if the things inside were marbles instead of salt, and quickly realized that the cube would be something like a hundred yards in size.

Margot has not missed a day in ten years of doing the ceremony. Having lived in a monastic relationship with the Salt Monument for a decade, and holding the meaning of it in her consciousness every day with a spiritual commitment and intention, I believe that she is the person who understands the most of anyone on earth about the enormity of the human race. I wish I could arrange for the Dalai Lama to visit her and see the Monument— I think he would be deeply moved.

Shortly before we left, she brought up another perspective that blew my mind quite the rest of the way. She pointed to the tray that had one grain of salt in it, and said “Imagine that is the sun. In that scale, how far away is the nearest star?” We guessed the other side of the room, or maybe out in the garden. The answer was nine miles. And she said that otherwise, there is absolutely nothing, in all directions. And that is the nearest star; most of the other stars in our galaxy are much further away than that, by up to several magnitudes. We are truly a speck of dust in space.

Then she pointed to the cube, and said that our galaxy has more stars than there are grains of salt in the cube, by a factor of something like fifteen. That fucked me up further—and then she said that there are more galaxies in the universe than there are grains of salt in the cube, by the same factor again. It affirmed for me the incomprehensible scale of our universe, with magnitudes of incomprehensibility; and thus vividly illustrates the enormity of the Mystery. This lovely elegant woman in Boulder just totally kicked my ass.

I turned to her and said “you are trying to deflate my ego, aren’t you?” We had a good laugh. She is adorable, a beautiful and fascinating person. She opens her home to anyone who wants to attend the ceremony and talk with her. I highly recommend it.

And a bit later a second email arrived

Aw jeez, there’s a website… Saltmonument.org

I enjoyed reading his description first, feeling as my mind tried to wrap itself around those words and images before entering into the, again, incredibly inspiring website.

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Sailing Through This Puzzling and Beautiful World

“I want people to sail with me through this puzzling and frightening world. I expect to fail at moments on this journey, to get lost–how could I not? And I expect that you too will fail. Even our voyage is cyclical–we can’t help but move from old to new to old. We will vacillate, one day doing something bold and different, excited over the progress, the next day, back to old behaviors, confused about how to proceed. We need to expect that we will wander off course and not make straight progress to our destination. To stay the course, we need patience, compassion, and forgiveness. We need to require this of one another. It will help us be bolder explorers. It might keep us from going mad.” ~Margaret Wheatley

Thank you for this invocation, invitation and reminder. Thank you Ria at Seeds for a Happy Planet for the quote.

I also want people to sail with me through this beautiful and mysterious world. Sometimes we’ll trust what is emerging, surrendering to the unknown wrapping its tendrils of possibility around life. Other times we’ll doubt, shy away or be afraid, attempting to avoid or control the uncertainty of seemingly dark abysses. Sometimes we’ll sail in solitude and sometimes with mates. My hope is that we always know we’re held, supported and connected and that we stay awake to the beauty and mystery guiding our eyes wide open and our hearts’ passions into action.

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