Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Here comes the sun

In this handout photo released by Nasa Earth Observatory on June 7, 2011 and taken from Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory, sunspot complex 1226-1227, shows the Sun unleashing an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm and a coronal mass ejection resulting in a large cloud of particles mushrooming up and falling back down giving the impression of covering an area of almost half the solar surface. An unusual solar flare observed by a NASA space observatory on June 7 could cause some disruptions to satellite communications and power on Earth over the next day or so, officials said. The potent blast from the Sun unleashed a firestorm of radiation on a level not witnessed since 2006, and will likely lead to moderate geomagnetic storm activity by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. (NASA)

Light Warrior Tactics - Fearlessness on the Spiritual Path

Light Warrior Tactics - Fearlessness on the Spiritual Path

Posted by: The Culture of Life on 6/11/2010

By Boaz Blain

There comes at least one point in the spiritual journey where we are confronted by fear, confusion, and uncertainty about going any further. As the truth of the spiritual dimensions of reality become apparent to us we are faced with a choice to either continue walking into the wilderness into which we have stumbled, or to turn back and return to what is familiar. In a recent satsang Gabriel spoke of the choice that must be made at these types of junctions in the spiritual path. He told a story about an experience at a public gathering in 1973 at which an angel, “a being of light”, appeared and was seen by Gabriel and one other person. He was shaken up by the experience. All of a sudden the whole realm of angels and demons and all the implications of their actual existence was stirring within him. Gabriel simplified the decision that had to be made into “Yes or No?” Do we except the new mysterious reality that we find ourselves in and continue walking into the unknown, or do we cash out, go home, and try to pretend that we are ignorant of the mystery we have tasted. Gabriel lovingly said, “though it may take some time and integration to come to, the answer is obvious really: you keep walking toward God.”

How is this done? When your entire reality is shaken, what keeps you from getting stuck in fear? How does Alice continue down the rabbit hole? What inspires Neo in The Matrix to take the red pill over the blue? On occasion I have heard Gabriel speak of the fearlessness that comes through the direct apperception of the Divine. He tells of a deep knowing of one’s unborn and undying nature, and when we truly understand that we are not the body-mind-ego life-story we come to a place of real fearlessness.

If you are able to reside in the awareness that what you truly are cannot die, there is nothing to be scared of. This is not to imply that Neo and Alice were necessarily present to these deep spiritual truths and fully fearless, nor that you will be. In fact you will surely experience fear during these pivotal periods in your journey, but the important thing is how you deal with it. I highlighted those characters because they embraced the unknown and plunged into it despite any fearful resistance they may have been experiencing. As light workers and spiritual warriors we must surrender ourselves to the Divine mystery and allow our fears to move through without stopping us in our tracks. Connect with your immortality and boldly step forward in acceptance of the path that the Divine has presented you. Embrace your fears as crucial challenges on your path to fearlessness; do not run from them.

An important teaching that Gabriel brings to us is that “everything that God does is for the best.” In these times of chaos, crime, and calamity this teaching can be a hard pill to swallow. Again Gabriel asks us to go beyond concepts of right and wrong, beyond our ego, and view everything as a play of the Divine Will. To fully receive this teaching we need to be in touch with unconditional love and peace within ourselves. If we are not able to reside in the awareness of Oneness then fear, separation, and concepts of wrong vs. right, good vs. evil will dominate our consciousness and we will become either overwhelmed by all the battles to be fought or forced into a state of nihilistic numbness. Full openness, innocence, and acceptance of what is, without judgments or desires, is the state of consciousness that Gabriel is trying to evoke through this teaching. The more we perceive our Unity, and the more we see that we are involved in a Divine plan unfolding, the easier it becomes to be open and fearless with what occurs in our personal and global lives.

The Light Warrior cultivates fearlessness by stepping into the unknown and accepting that whatever takes place is exactly what is meant to be. How then, can we be prepared for the unknown? The answer once again is cultivating a deep connection and a perception of God in all things and the unconditional grounding in Love that results. Spiritual Warriors are ready and armed with innocence and love as they venture down the mysterious path through the wilderness of their destiny. Are you ready to embody peace in the face of your greatest nemesis? Are you ready to hold the vibration of love when confronted with an experience that shakes the core of your entire existence? Are you ready to fearlessly accept the manifestation of things could have never dreamed of? Gabriel empowers us with the wisdom that we exist as multi-dimensional beings in a field of infinite potential and possibility, and with this understanding we walk faithfully down our paths.

Be prepared to believe in the extraordinary. Extraterrestrials, giants, angels, demons, stargates, telepathy, levity--we must release socially-imposed judgments to go beyond what we may have perceived to be possible. We do not need to try to convince others of the existence of such things, nor need we naively accepting everything as truth. Gabriel suggests that what is necessary is to simply be open and ready for the unexpected and limitless possibilities. When we limit the potentials that reality holds we set ourselves up for being greatly conflicted and fearful if something that was “not supposed to exist” suddenly shows up in our experience.

Explore what scares you most, even if only in the form of a discussion. How might you overcome that fear? Locate your immortal, fearless, and unconditionally loving Source. Take the pill, step into the unknown, surrender, and embrace the grand and mysterious play of the Divine.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

Full speech here

Op-Ed Contributor

Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

A COUPLE of weeks ago, I replaced my three-year-old BlackBerry Pearl with a much more powerful BlackBerry Bold. Needless to say, I was impressed with how far the technology had advanced in three years. Even when I didn’t have anybody to call or text or e-mail, I wanted to keep fondling my new Bold and experiencing the marvelous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the beguiling elegance of its graphics.

Illustration by Sarah Illenberger, Photograph by Ragnar Schmuck


I was, in short, infatuated with my new device. I’d been similarly infatuated with my old device, of course; but over the years the bloom had faded from our relationship. I’d developed trust issues with my Pearl, accountability issues, compatibility issues and even, toward the end, some doubts about my Pearl’s very sanity, until I’d finally had to admit to myself that I’d outgrown the relationship.

Do I need to point out that — absent some wild, anthropomorphizing projection in which my old BlackBerry felt sad about the waning of my love for it — our relationship was entirely one-sided? Let me point it out anyway.

Let me further point out how ubiquitously the word “sexy” is used to describe late-model gadgets; and how the extremely cool things that we can do now with these gadgets — like impelling them to action with voice commands, or doing that spreading-the-fingers iPhone thing that makes images get bigger — would have looked, to people a hundred years ago, like a magician’s incantations, a magician’s hand gestures; and how, when we want to describe an erotic relationship that’s working perfectly, we speak, indeed, of magic.

Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.

To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.

Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn.

Its first line of defense is to commodify its enemy. You can all supply your own favorite, most nauseating examples of the commodification of love. Mine include the wedding industry, TV ads that feature cute young children or the giving of automobiles as Christmas presents, and the particularly grotesque equation of diamond jewelry with everlasting devotion. The message, in each case, is that if you love somebody you should buy stuff.

A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they’re designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it. (I’m thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.)

But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).

Consumer technology products would never do anything this unattractive, because they aren’t people. They are, however, great allies and enablers of narcissism. Alongside their built-in eagerness to be liked is a built-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery.

And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.

I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.

The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

Suddenly there’s a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me?

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.

This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.

The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived. Even just to say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll get to that love and pain stuff later, maybe in my 30s” is to consign yourself to 10 years of merely taking up space on the planet and burning up its resources. Of being (and I mean this in the most damning sense of the word) a consumer.

When I was in college, and for many years after, I liked the natural world. Didn’t love it, but definitely liked it. It can be very pretty, nature. And since I was looking for things to find wrong with the world, I naturally gravitated to environmentalism, because there were certainly plenty of things wrong with the environment. And the more I looked at what was wrong — an exploding world population, exploding levels of resource consumption, rising global temperatures, the trashing of the oceans, the logging of our last old-growth forests — the angrier I became.

Finally, in the mid-1990s, I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about the environment. There was nothing meaningful that I personally could do to save the planet, and I wanted to get on with devoting myself to the things I loved. I still tried to keep my carbon footprint small, but that was as far as I could go without falling back into rage and despair.

BUT then a funny thing happened to me. It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I did this not without significant resistance, because it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool. But little by little, in spite of myself, I developed this passion, and although one-half of a passion is obsession, the other half is love.

And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I’d seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species. But, no less important, whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a robin, I could feel my heart overflow with love. And love, as I’ve been trying to say today, is where our troubles begin.

Because now, not merely liking nature but loving a specific and vital part of it, I had no choice but to start worrying about the environment again. The news on that front was no better than when I’d decided to quit worrying about it — was considerably worse, in fact — but now those threatened forests and wetlands and oceans weren’t just pretty scenes for me to enjoy. They were the home of animals I loved.

And here’s where a curious paradox emerged. My anger and pain and despair about the planet were only increased by my concern for wild birds, and yet, as I began to get involved in bird conservation and learned more about the many threats that birds face, it became easier, not harder, to live with my anger and despair and pain.

How does this happen? I think, for one thing, that my love of birds became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of myself that I’d never even known existed. Instead of continuing to drift forward through my life as a global citizen, liking and disliking and withholding my commitment for some later date, I was forced to confront a self that I had to either straight-up accept or flat-out reject.

Which is what love will do to a person. Because the fundamental fact about all of us is that we’re alive for a while but will die before long. This fact is the real root cause of all our anger and pain and despair. And you can either run from this fact or, by way of love, you can embrace it.

When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them.

And who knows what might happen to you then?

Jonathan Franzen is the author, most recently, of “Freedom.” This essay is adapted from a commencement speech he delivered on May 21 at Kenyon College.