I love comedy, and College Humour is one of my favorite Youtube channels for a laugh. If you had to take a big marker and divide their history into two big chapters, it would be 1) Before the 2008 recession, and 2) After the 2008 recession. The first chapter was pure Social genius. There were tons of actors on staff, and the vast majority of them were social. The energy was bubbly, improvisational and refracted.
In piecing together the rosetta stone of the tarot cards and how they correspond to the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians and Greeks, I am still stuck on a major piece of the puzzle: the pentacles. The word "pentacle" is a fancy word for money or coin. Tarot readers today interpret pentacles generally as slow but steady movement forward, groundedness, money, our finances, our practical foundation in life. I'm trying to figure out the pentacles' correspondence to the Enneagram, which is a personality system that goes back probably just as long ago to ancient times, albeit in a much more rustic form.
I have been realizing how indebted I am to one particular tarot website for the interpretation of the Ace of Pentacles in the tarot deck. All of the other cards-- and I'm particularly interested in the Minor Arcana here-- I have come to an understanding of through the Enneagram, particularly thanks to Sandra Maitri's in-depth explanation of the nine Enneagram types' psychological patterns, but the Aces don't lend themselves that easily to transfering meaning from the Enneagram to Tarot.
Someone in my Facebook Enneagram Type 4 group asked how other Fours dealt with people who are constantly reminding them of how much they were similar. She said she had a friend who was always pointing out their similarities. My first guess is because this poster is a Four, that the other person is too. Generally people who are the same personality type aren't super attracted to each other- they'll be polite, but there's nothing to project onto, so on an egoic level, they're just taking up each others' space. Especially because they're both image types, they're fighting for the same response from others- and from each other, which makes conversation a bit stilted.
The question reminded me of when I went to my first Enneagram workshop at the Enneagram Institute, and I met a Type 8 who said that by the middle of the week, all the 8's were evenly spaced out along the room- they were all defending their territory; none of them wanted to get close to each other. I mean, this is a generality- the same type can be attracted to each other sometimes, and even marry. At my second Enneagram workshop, I met two married couples who were composed to two Fours each, and that is a rare combination among married couples of the same type. There aren't many 4-4 couples.
The other night I went out for drinks with another Four and I tried to be aware of my tendency to point out our similarities. He didn't know the Enneagram and I was trying to just let him be, trying to be non-reactive to my craving to jump in and do a Type Four intervention on his life. Fours especially need to feel unique, and nobody likes being put in a box- they want to feel like the other person is being present to their whole self, not just the characteristics that are consistent with the archetype. I took it as an opportunity to see what triggered me. We don't like being reminded of our shortcomings, and when we see them in another one of our kind, we want to push them away or "help them change". I think the only way to learn to get along with someone with the exact same personality as you is to learn to love yourself.
I can hardly think of a better example of what happens when the body's different intelligence centres get disconnected from each other than the United States' fierce rivalry between the Republicans and the Democrats. If we think of the country as one body with three brains: a head, a heart, and a gut/body, we can see how the blue states largely honor one brain at the expense of another, while the red states do the opposite.
Long hailed as intellectual snobs who control the media, Hollywood, and higher education, the Democrats seem to honor the cultivation of the mind while ignoring or at least diminishing the importance of the lower brain in the gut from whence healthy boundaries and the ability to protect oneself are exercised. On the other hand are the Republicans who are crying out for more protection-- both of their personal rights and of the borders of their country-- but who largely neglect to nurture the head centre from which logical thinking arises.
Where the heart-brain in all this kerfuffle is the subject of an entirely different blog post.
While modern psychology doesn't necessarily speak of the human psyche in the terms I'm using, it would help if we thought of the chakra system here. Imagine all seven of them laid on top of one another along the body. The lower chakras are the first to develop in a child and have to do with how we identify the borders of one's own body (ie. where I end and mommy begins), what is mine, how I take up my space in the world and defend my boundaries. Later on as the child develops, they develop the higher chakras of the mind where knowledge ultimately becomes wisdom.
As a mirror reflects the body, so the media reflects the political landscape of the country. Although just like imperfect mirrors that make us look skinnier, fatter, shorter or taller than we really are, the media has long been criticized for being either too right-wing or too left-wing.
Today I'd like to focus on the critique coming from the Conservatives, which necessitates a look at the evolution of their party over their 160 year life span.
While the Republican political position on fiscal conservation, limited government, and freedom to conduct private enterprise has more or less remained consistent, its stance on some social issues has shifted drastically; the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln, and as we know, he was an opponent to slavery. The GOP held their first convention in 1854, a time when journalism was still coming to its own as a profession. Newspaper publishers and pampleteers abounded, and it was normal at the time for newspaper publishers to state their opinion as clearly and loudly as they could. It was not until the Progressive Era that journalists started seeing themselves as real professionals with standards and ethics to abide by, namely objectivity in reportage.
Through the 1930's, Franklin D. Roosevelt was spending large amounts of federal money on programs and make-work projects to help the poor get back on their feet and get the economy running at full speed again. Not all, but some conservatives opposed it, saying that it negatively affected the economy by expanding government unnecessarily and giving unions too much power; during this time, Social Security was put in place and a minimum wage was set.
By the mid-1940's, conservatives were pushing back against a federal government that they felt was getting too big for its britches. In a backlash against what they already felt was a liberal media, a conservative newspaper was born.
In reporting the news, Human Events is objective; it aims for accurate representation of the facts. But it is not impartial. It looks at events through eyes that are biased in favor of limited constitutional government, local self-government, private enterprise, and individual freedom.
But the New Deal programs were deeply embedded in the American consciousness and only became partially dismantled in the 1980's. From 1953 to 1961, Republican president Dwight Eisenhower left the New Deal intact, then his successor, Democrat Lyndon B Johnson, built upon that platform and implemented the Great Society initiative that was to end poverty and eliminate racism. Even after Johnson, Republican Richard Nixon maintained the programs.
However, it took the long and messy civil rights movement of the 1950's and 60's to push conservatives to a new strategy on the media. It was no longer enough to just publish "the objective facts through a conservative lens." It became necessary to discredit the liberal media, and they were going to do it by channeling class hostility toward the liberal journalist snobs who controlled how the news was being delivered.
In 1964, Arizona Senator Goldwater was the Republican nominee for the election against Lyndon B. Johnson. Although he lost miserably, the lesson learned from the aftermath was that the Republicans needed to make all future campaigns about social issues, and not just focus on the economy. The economy was boring and complicated to the electorate, but got fired up about issues like abortion, gay rights, desegregatation, gun control, and family values. Hollywood was being taken over by liberals, they felt, and they were influencing young people to disrespect their elders and throw Judeo-Christian values out the window.
The 1960s were rife with conflict in the United States. In 1966, Betty Friedan organized and became president of NOW- the National Organization for Women- and styled her protests after the civil rights movement. There were protests on behalf of the environment, and Ralph Nader was raising red flags in the electorates' minds about big corporations, unfettered by policies and legislation that would consumers safe.
By 1968, conservative strategizers had formulated an idea to get themselves into office, and they called themselves the New Right. Richard Nixon, who was not yet in office, and two young strategizers Patrick Buchanan and Kevin Phillips listened to the rhetoric in the deep South about the moral fabric of the country coming apart and the embarassment of Vietnam, and decided that they would present America as having two classes- "the quiet, ordinary, patriotic, religious, law-abiding Many, and the noisy, élitist, amoral, disorderly, condescending Few" [Source].
It worked. By chanelling hostility toward the liberal elite which they felt overpopulated universities, the media, and bureaucracy, Republicans were able to distract voters from big business and direct their ire against what they called The New Class, thus, winning the White House. Their strategy was to expose journalists, academics, and bureaucrats as a class of unelected "professionals and technocrats who espouse liberalism as a means to rationalize and expand their power, for example, by expanding the welfare system, which they administer" [Source- class notes]. It was during Nixon's campaign that Buchanan wrote speeches for Vice-President Spiro Agnew, getting him to call liberals, among other things, "nattering nabobs of negativism."
A few other massive influences came to bear between 1970 and 1980. In the midst of the social movements stirring up public sentiment against big business, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell, just before being appointed to the Supreme Court by Nixon in 1971, wrote a confiential memo to his friend, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce, "[proposing] a road map to defend and advance the free enterprise system against perceived socialist, communist, and fascist cultural trends [Source]. Partly in reaction to Ralph Nader's activism, Powell's concern was that "the American economic system was under broad attack" and if social movements continued to gain momentum, corporations would no longer to be able to pursue their economic aims as freely as they wished. He urged "corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society's thinking about business, government, politics and law in the US", calling for private funds to be directed toward foundations that would build campaigns that softened the image of corporations in the media and the general public.
Thus, in that decade, no fewer than 18 conservative think tanks, foundations, and institutes were founded to conduct research and provide what they felt was an objective and unbiased counterargument to the liberal point of view in the media. Among them was AIM (Accuracy in Media), the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Focus on the Family, the Moral Majority, and the Koch Charitable Foundation.
The second influence that played a very large role in increased polarization between the left and right was the fundamentalist Christian voice that urged Evangelicals to not sit idly by while their country, with its Christian roots, was heading off into amoral territory. Before the 1950's, Christians were happy not to get involved in politics, but Francis Schaeffer, a popular fundamentalist theologian, drew a sharp line in the sand against what he called Secular Humanism in such books as A Christian Manifesto and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? He took particular issue with abortion, but overall felt America was losing its moral bearings on several fronts.
In A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer's argument is simple. The United States began as a nation rooted in Biblical principles. But as society became more pluralistic, with each new wave of immigrants, proponents of a new philosophy of secular humanism gradually came to dominate debate on policy issues. Since humanists place human progress, not God, at the center of their considerations, they pushed American culture in all manner of ungodly directions, the most visible results of which included legalized abortion and the secularization of the public schools. At the end of -- A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer calls for Christians to use civil disobedience to restore Biblical morality... [Source].
Riding on his intellectual coattails was Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor and activist who co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979. Falwell powerfully and rather successfully lobbied government on behalf of Christian interests for at least three decades. More and more, American Christians were being reminded that to be Christian was to be Republican, and there was no middle ground.
In 1996, Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch created Fox News, which had as its mission to provide unbiased news coverage with a conservative point of view. It is well-known today as a major influencer in persuading the electorate to vote Republican, although it should be noted that it has also contributed its fair share to a journalistic ecosystem that is now known today as fake news. Overall across the political spectrum, Americans are losing confidence in the profession of journalism, and as newspapers across the country bleed ad revenue and lose readership to sensationalist news, the future of objective reportage and investigative journalism as a profession is in question.
A few years ago, I imagine about four or five years ago, the Diamond Heart school that I'm a student of made a decision to start marketing their courses and materials online. For example, three days ago, I got an e-mail from the Diamond Heart advertising a course called "Soul Without Shame" with a 37-minute Vimeo teaser clip of a teaching on how we developped our sense of who we "ought to" be, our Superego. It's a compassionate look at the ways we feel restricted as adults, and the judgement and anxiety we feel about whether or not we're living the way we should be.
Based out of California, the Diamond Heart school is, in my opinion, the best place to seek enlightenment while still living in the real world-- having a job, raising kids, growing your retirement fund, and being a member of your community. If you wanted to leave the world, yes, you could go live in an ashram or become a Buddhist monk or devote yourself to full-time service to the Church, or you could just quit your job, stay home, and live off of social services while meditating all day. But for those of us who want to participate in life, but at the same time, want to heal from the wounds that were inflicted by our very participation in that life, there is the option of the Diamond Heart. By way of their teachings, you develop among other things, an understanding of the Buddhist philosophy of non-reaction and a mindfulness practice that are decidedly Eastern in origin, and a practical and profound understanding of your own individual ego structure that is unique to Western philosophy. The integration of these tools helps you become more present in and to the various low-key and explicit traumas we have all experienced- for example, the trauma of being told in different ways you were not enough, or the trauma on the opposite side of the coin, or being told you were too much. Or that you were not quite right in a different way. The "goal" of spiritual work, if there is one, is to unfold into a healthier and less restricted version of the person you were meant to be.
As Buddhism in North America is relatively new-- only about 50 years old-- there are still questions about "how to be in the world". Should a Buddhist be a political activist in the hate-driven and unpredictable times we now live in? Buddhist practitioners in the US today are wrestling with whether or not to stand up and resist current trends, or are they changing the world enough by being non-reactive and teaching others how to find inner peace from the ravages of the human experience? There are studies, after all, that demonstrate that just the act of meditating as a group lowers the crime rate in the city where the meditation is taking place, for the duration of the practice. Isn't that enough? I imagine a similar conversation started happening in the Diamond Heart school about four or five years ago as online courses became mainstream. Should we advertise? Is advertising spiritual? From time to time throughout history, Buddhists have organized missionary efforts. How about those- were they ego-driven? Or a were they a selfless sacrifice? Modern-day Enneagram teacher Don Riso famously said, "Nothing to fear, nothing to defend, nothing to promote." Do we need to promote spiritual work? Only those who are really ready to start their inner journey, it seems, find their way to the path, so why go looking for people if they're not ready? If they're ready, don't they just naturally come to us?
I can imagine it wasn't easy to nagivate these conversations; nevertheless, within the last three years, you could tell there was an increased marketing effort and alignging with current online trends. The DH started being more deliberate about their newsletters, they put together a [beautiful] new website, started paying more attention to their sound and video quality, became more tech-aware, improved the back-end so our user experience of their online portals wasn't so belabored, and most importantly, they started offering online courses to non-members- first for free, then at a cost. Most recently, they have started offering online inquiry groups of eight-to-ten weeks long for people to do some inner exploration guided by a group leader.
Marketing is such an uncomfortable topic, but I find what they are doing to be very graceful, generous and compassionate. For example, in the above-mentioned e-mail, Byron Brown's talk on the Superego was such a lift to my day this afternoon, I thought I would share it. The reason this talk in particular stands out is that the exerpt isn't actually 37 minutes long-- it's 25 minutes and 33 seconds, to be exact. The rest of the time is a departure from its low-key and inconspicuous metropolitan snobbery that's been embedded in Diamond Heart culture since I've learned about it. It's not like you'd ever hear them say it-- they probably weren't even really conscious of it-- but there's always been, at least for me, an unspoken judgement underneath the surface that you should be doing this work in community, and if you don't live in a big sexy city where a Diamond Heart group meets, or if you can't afford to travel twice or three times a year to one of these groups, your experience of inquiry is necessarily going to be limited.
It is true- you do need community- but the lack of attention to those outside the bigger city centers has always bugged me a bit. However, at the end of this video, it's ten minutes of Byron looking into the camera and doing the inquiry with you in case you didn't have a partner. I was deeply moved by this acknowledgement: "we can't all be there together". Sometimes you live in a city where you don't know any other inquiry practitioners, or maybe you do, but you're too busy to meet, and you do have those ten minutes right there, and that's when you want to do the work.
I'm attaching the link to the video here. I hope it provides respite to anyone who needs it on this Sunday afternoon.
It's rare to find beautifully clear and concise writing on the brain that makes you feel informed about actual brain function, but doesn't get bogged down by technical terms and laborious digressions into background neuroanatomy and physiology. The following piece on how carnivores and herbivores developped different styles of attention for survival stood out to me for its simplicity and fluidity. They say that if you want to really get a handle on a difficult topic, try explaining it to a child. Obviously the audience here is a bit more sophisticated- a university undergrad studying for the GRE- and it's about animals, but it's applicable enough to humans that it helps you envision your own internal process when trying to concentrate or be mindful in the moment. This exerpt is from the 2017 Official Guide to the GRE. If you're interested, the four attendant GRE test questions and answers are available here.
The evolution of intelligence among early large mammals of the grasslands was due in great measure to the interaction between two ecologically synchronized groups of these animals, the hunting carnivores and the herbivores that they hunted. The interaction resulting from the differences between predator and prey led to a general improvement in brain functions; however, certain components of intelligence were improved far more than others.
The kind of intelligence favored by the interplay of increasingly smarter catchers and increasingly keener escapers is defined by attention — that aspect of mind carrying consciousness forward from one moment to the next. It ranges from a passive, free-floating awareness to a highly focused, active fixation. The range through these states is mediated by the arousal system, a network of tracts converging from sensory systems to integrating centers in the brain stem. From the more relaxed to the more vigorous levels, sensitivity to novelty is increased. The organism is more awake, more vigilant; this increased vigilance results in the apprehension of ever more subtle signals as the organism becomes more sensitive to its surroundings. The processes of arousal and concentration give attention its direction. Arousal is at first general, with a flooding of impulses in the brain stem; then gradually the activation is channeled. Thus begins concentration, the holding of consistent images. One meaning of intelligence is the way in which these images and other alertly searched information are used in the context of previous experience. Consciousness links past attention to the present and permits the integration of details with perceived ends and purposes.
The elements of intelligence and consciousness come together marvelously to produce different styles in predator and prey. Herbivores and carnivores develop different kinds of attention related to escaping or chasing. Although in both kinds of animal, arousal stimulates the production of adrenaline and norepinephrine by the adrenal glands, the effect in herbivores is primarily fear, whereas in carnivores the effect is primarily aggression. For both, arousal attunes the animal to what is ahead. Perhaps it does not experience forethought as we know it, but the animal does experience something like it. The predator is searchingly aggressive, inner-directed, tuned by the nervous system and the adrenal hormones, but aware in a sense closer to human consciousness than, say, a hungry lizard’s instinctive snap at a passing beetle. Using past events as a framework, the large mammal predator is working out a relationship between movement and food, sensitive to possibilities in cold trails and distant sounds — and yesterday’s unforgotten lessons. The herbivore prey is of a different mind. Its mood of wariness rather than searching and its attitude of general expectancy instead of anticipating are silk-thin veils of tranquillity over an explosive endocrine system.
I have made the case on this blog before that the Enneagram and the Tarot had similar origins back in Ancient Egyptian and Greek days. The Tarot has become, in my mind, a powerful tool for explaining the different mental, emotional, and instinctual reactions for each Enneagram type. Maybe someone figured somewhere back in the day that if we could see our neuroses depicted as harmless cartoons, we could feel more comfortable accepting how we went off course and became "blocked from the divine".
It's been about four months since I last blogged, and now suddenly, I have all these ideas for posts. One reason might be because the Toronto Raptors start their 2017-2018 season on Oct 19- less than a month away- and I'm ramping up for another season of basketball with Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. So whether my creative juices are linked to the NBA or not, let's get back in the game. If you read this blog, you probably know
A few years ago, there was a video circulating around the internet of a blogger who was trying to start a blog, but kept getting distracted with Facebook and Reddit, so he posted an ad on Craigslist for someone to sit beside him and slap him across the face every time he got distracted. Apparently the experiment was relatively successful. Maybe not everyone has wished for a personal slapper, but everyone has certainly experienced the dissapointment of having started at point A with every intent on reaching point B by a certain time, and then, hours later, found themselves deep in something else.