I’m a member of CEN Association in Spain, working for the conservation and improvement or natural habitats and biodiversity. One of our projects is the conservation of the Glorieta Stream for which we could recieve funding from EOCA (European Ourdoor Conservation Association). But that depends on a public vote, your vote!

Vote here: http://outdoorconservation.eu/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=1

Information about the association here: www.assoc-cen.org/index_eng.php

And more about the project for the Glorieta Stream: www.assoc-cen.org/Glorieta_eng.php

Vote for the conservation of the Glorieta stream. It’s free and only takes less than a minute:http://outdoorconservation.eu/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=1

Please, forward this message to all your contacts, including colleagues, friends, family, social networks and media. Every single vote is important! The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is a not-for-profit association constituted by companies operating within the outdoor industry. As a charitable organisation directly funding specific projects, the EOCA wants to show that the European outdoor industry is committed to putting something back into the environment, and that by everyone working together a real difference can be made. Every year, a number of non-profit organisations apply for EOCA grants to implement a conservation project through volunteering in any country around the world. Our project has become a finalist and we need your vote to be selected. The aim of our proposal is to guarantee the long term conservation of the Glorieta stream headwaters. The site is protected by the Natura 2000 Network of the Prades Mountains and protected by a land stewardship agreement with the CEN association. The deep pools, long waterfalls, and turquoise waters are admired by thousands every year, including those that come specifically to hike or canyon. The area is rich in endangered species such as the white-clawed crayfish, the red tailed barbel and the white throated dipper. The main threats are the increasing numbers of visitors, litter, graffiti and damage caused by visitors, and exotic invasive plant and animal species. Through CEN, this project will organise:

  1. Restoration actions to counteract human impacts.
    • 3 clean up campaigns with volunteering.
    • Control the ailanthus invasion (exotic invasive tree).
    • Eradication of the red swamp crayfish (exotic) to protect the white-clawed crayfish (autochthonous and endangered) and other fauna.
  2. Regulation actions to reduce the negative effects derived from hyperfrequentation.
    • Regulation of canyoning.
    • Access restriction to vulnerable places.
  3. Awareness actions.
    • Leaflet.
    • Poster.
    • Panels.
    • Conference.
    • Workshop “the stream secret inhabitants”

Voting will start at 00.01 (GMT) on 17th March and will end at 12.00 midday (GMT) on 31st March. Vote in English: http://outdoorconservation.eu/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=1 Information and vote in Deutsch: http://www.eoca.de/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=1 For further information, please visit the EOCA website www.outdoorconservation.eu

Nominated by:

patagonia

In collaboration with:

alcovermontral

Member of:

xct

Here’s a blog I recently put on Druid in Training, on which I’m more active. Usually longer articles go here and shorter ones on DiT, so now I’m sharing this one here.

“The mystery religions were instituted in order to protect the marvels of the commonplace from those who would devalue them.” Peter Redgrove

“Here then, at the outset, is a potent secret which is inaccessible to the majority of people; a secret which they will never guess and which it would be useless to tell them: the secret of their own stupidity.” Eliphas Lévi [Stupidity? Bit harsh don’t you think? Or maybe not… ;)]

Mysteries, esotericism, the occult: these words bring up images of secret orders, with strange rituals and sharing their secrets only to the select few. Historically this has been true, and is still true today. I’m sure most of us have heard of the Freemasons, for example. But information that was esoteric in the past isn’t so much now, and the content in many modern day “mystery schools” is out in the open. I’ve been told by a Wiccan that most, if not all the information of Alexandrian and Gardenarian traditions, is out there already, and as a member of druid order (OBOD) I can see that a lot of the information isn’t necessarily esoteric, but the structure by which it is presented is; it is meant to guide you through certain information along a certain way, instead of having to wade through the chaos trying to make sense of things by yourself (though this also has its virtues).

There are many subjects that are “esoteric” to me, and there are people with specialised knowledge in which I am not trained. Quantum physics for example, is an esoteric subject for me, though I understand or know of some ideas from it. Through the ages there have always been people with specialised knowledge and those without. I rely on the “esoteric” knowledge of builders, plumbers and electricians to fix what I can’t. School, colleges and universities are “esoteric” organisation, sharing their knowledge with the fortunate few (though in recent centuries education has become more open, not to just an elite class).

What really makes these subjects esoteric for me is my own willingness, ability and necessity to understand these things. There is nothing barring my way from understanding them except my own limits. And it is much the same for anybody. The “exoteric” information is simply data that the general public can understand, whilst “esoteric” information is what we don’t. And the boundary between exoteric and esoteric is always changing as the understanding of the general public changes.

If I want to understand something, I will. If I am able to understand it, I will. If I need to understand something, I will. And these three things, more often than not, should coincide. A year and a half ago the world of linguistics was very unknown for me, but I have since waded into the subject and understand more than I thought I would have. Though there still remain things I have a lot to learn about.

All “esoteric” information is out there, in plain sight. What “hides” or limits it, rather than secret orders (thought we might assume there are some), is simply my own need, want and ability to understand certain information. “Know thyself”, at the heart of esotericism, is something that no one can hide from you, except yourself.

“We do not, as children, first enter into language by consciously studying the formalities of syntax and grammar or by memorizing the dictionary definition of words, but rather by actively making sounds – by crying in pain and laughing in joy, by squealing and babbling and playfully mimicking the surrounding soundscape, gradually entering through such mimicry into specific melodies of the local language, our resonant bodies slowly coming to echo the inflections and accents common to our locale and community.

“We thus learn out native language not mentally but bodily. We appropriate new words and phrases first through their expressive tonality and texture, through the way they feel in the mouth or roll of the tongue, and it is this direct, felt significance – the taste of a word or phrase, the way it influences or modulates the body – that provides the fertile, polyvalent source for all the more refined and rarefied meanings which that term may come to have for us.” David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Learning and creating languages is an interesting intellectual pursuit, but I think there’s more depth to it than that, something I’ve discovered in my exposure to other languages. The idea being that language goes back to our primal roots, through cries, grunts, murmurs, screams. The calls of animals we hear in the wild places are the primal matrix from which languages evolved, like the first light sensitive cell on a microorganism that eventually became an eye.

Our first experience of language acquisition is instinctive, not intellectual; it is something experienced by the body, and from there our learning of language is built up. Looking through a dictionary we might be mistaken that language is a purely intellectual pursuit, something “raised above” our instincts, and that translation between languages is just a logical pursuit of matching meanings of the words and/or parallel grammatical approaches.

Perhaps this is the reason I never learnt French in school (despite 6 years of learning), because the formal approach in a school doesn’t resonate emotionally or instinctively with us; it doesn’t access the roots of language. It’s well known that emersion in a language is the best way to learn, and that’s certainly the case with me: I’ve learnt more French and Spanish since living with them.

Sometimes I say something in Spanish, not because I know intellectually that it is correct, but because I have a gut feeling that some words or phrases are correct. I think even if I make mistakes in another language (or my own even) it is understood because I am learning to speak from a “gut feeling” level and am understood at the same level. The flow of the words (or even their non-flow) can communicate more than the words themselves.

I think even the written word, though supposedly abstracted from our bodies, can have an effect on us. Going back to gut instinct, we can get a feeling for the words on a page, not just their dictionary meanings. So much has been done so that our experience of the body is distrusted, and I think that use of language has a lot to do with it. If we trust the sensations of the body through our languages a whole new level of communication is accessible.

“I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier’s second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — ‘the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts’ — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”

“There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true Self.” William James

“It is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” René Descarte

Ever since Socrates started to question the basis of our ethics and morals philosophers have questioned and questioned until we can only shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to an “I don’t know”. But this comes from assuming one thing; that the basis of our ethics should be explainable. We are faced with resorting to “because I say so” or “because that’s the way it is” and expose our inability to come up with the rhetoric to sustain our argument.

Yes, the post-modernists are right, there is no wrong or right (paradoxically making the post-modernists neither wrong nor right in their rightness), except what we make right or wrong. Any wrong or right we perceive are social constructs. We live in an ethical and existential void, with no inherent values, that we are forced to make sense of ourselves, so some Existentialists would have us believe.

So, just make it up as we go along right, as though we are tabula rasa?

In a postmodern society, where all points of view are relative and equally valid or invalid, it is easy to lose perspective, even of what is innate within us. The infant human being learns to absorb and reflect the qualities of its society. It is no surprise then that a child born in a “postmodern world” would feel tabula rasa, that they could not even trust their own being.

René Descarte came to an interesting conclusion, when he considered the philosophical possibility everything he experienced was the result of a demon tricking him, otherwise known as “the method of doubt”. Out of all the things he could be sure of, what could he really be sure of? In the end he came up with what he called his First Certainty, which most of us will recognise as; “I think, therefore I am” or more simply “I exist”. In the end, Descarte thinks, the one thing that we can depend on is the “self”, the thinker, the “I”, even if everything else can be considered an “illusion”. Unfortunately it was an “I” divorced from physical embodiment, a ghost in a machine, if you like.

At this point a Zen Master may apply a well deserved Zen Slap: “So, that pain you feel on your cheek, is it real or illusory?” Descarte’s thinker may, in the end, conclude that no matter the answer that’s it’s probably worthwhile saying that the pain is real, especially after a few more well applied Zen Slaps. Some pragmatist thinkers, like William James, would think the same; “real pain” versus “illusory pain” seem so indistinguishable as to be a meaningless distinction, you might as well act as if  “illusory pain” is “real” until experience tells you otherwise. If it’s reliable as an experience it’s probably true.

When all society offers us is an existential void, we learn to distrust. We distrust the world around us, we distrust our experience, we may even learn to distrust ourselves. The void has swallowed us.

Exept some experiences are so persistent they cannot be denied out of hand. One of these, as I believe Descarte correctly identified, was the “I” at the centre of thought and experience that I described in Anatta and the Importance of Personhood as:

And yet, there it remains; a strong, persistent sense of self. Despite changing over time, despite interruptions in the flow of consciousness called sleep, there is a strong sense of continuity, that, despite being different ages and with different personal qualities, the “I” ten years ago is the same “I” that is experience by this brain now.

Another is that this sense of self is inextricably attached to a body and therefore the undeniable (whether real or illusory) pain of the Zen Slap. There are some experiences that can be trusted, a rare quality for any person to have!

Going back to Socrates and his continuous questioning (whose philosophical purpose was to “know thyself”, not to nit-pick by the way); we may lose trust in many things, but there are many things we cannot deny, or if we do they hang around like a bad smell. It’s good to question everything, and thoroughly, but it doesn’t pay to live with a feeling that you can’t trust anything. It’s not in human nature to live without meaning… well, I don’t think so. I tried very hard, casting doubt at it from every direction, but this feeling just wouldn’t go away!

At some point the human mind has to find its orientation, and form itself and its world around that orientation. It doesn’t have top be some great big mythological epic, detailing some super-cosmic story that explains EVERYTHING!!! but we do need something, even if it’s thinking about where the next meal comes from.

Following Pragmatist philosophy I think it’s good to trust basic experience and build on that, until experience tells me differently. There is a “me”, no matter how many times I try to fool myself I am “just” a bundle of neurons. I am a physical presense (body) in the “world”, which, incidently, does exist. And there is a a way of telling right from wrong, and it’s called a conscience. I chose to trust these things as far as I may, as far as my experience tells me that they work.

With so much cultural bias and disillusionment it’s easy to see how we learn to distrust in the basic realities of experience, and abstract ourselves from what is right in front of us, what makes our very being; the “I”, conscience, sense, thoughts. We aren’t without some references to go with. And at times they’re not rationally explainable, they just “feel right”.

So, go on, I dare you; trust your Self. You might find it’s worth it.

“Vice is waste of life. Poverty, obedience and celibacy are the canonical vices.” George Bernard Shaw

As  kid I was told by a teacher that I “should be a monk.” Because I was very quiet. Meant as a joke but it has left it’s mark in me (a good mark I mean). You know, jokes that adults make sometimes get taken seriously by unwitting kids. I really thought I’d become a monk (even a saint!). Since then I’ve lost my faith, (well, it transformed really, into something it wasn’t before) and I don’t know any suitable monastic communities to attach myself to with my present beliefs.

And now I’ve learnt that the cornerstone of the monastic life are the vows of “poverty, obedience and celibacy” (not silence, lol). And the part of me that is still a bit of a monk wants to make sense of these, reconcile them with my lifestyle that isn’t celibate, doesn’t shun money and doesn’t obey any sort of Church hierarchy. I like the idea of a life dedicated to contemplation and spirituality, but something that’s more involved with the world, not hidden in a cloister.

And so here are my thoughts:

I made a connection the other day between the subjects in the title. The monastic vows being celibacy (sex), poverty (money) and obedience (power). The hope of those that make monastic vows is to deny the influence of the three sources of “sin”: money, sex and power. If truth be told these three things are, perhaps, the most contentious and controversial subjects, and many problems, especially in human relationships are based upon these three (those monastics were on to something I think). If these three can be resolved then most human problems and relationship issues are most probably resolved.

So the answer according to monks and nuns? Deny them. Renounce them. Renounce personal ownership of wealth and problems of “having too much” or “not having enough” go away, and because there is “an eternal wealth awaiting us beyond this world”. Renounce sexuality and those wayward urges don’t have a place to intefere with the important things in life (like praying). Renounce personal will, defer it to a “higher power” and you don’t have to worry about making the wrong decisions or taking responsibility for something too big for you.

But this, in my view, only sweeps problems under the proverbial carpet. Money, sex and power will not go away. Thousands, millions of people have taken these vows and the problems still exist. Small groups of people have managed, with mixed results, to find a little pocket away from all these “bad influences”. But they have not managed to effectively resolve these issues for the world.

Energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be changed or diverted. The energy that money, sex and power represent cannot be effectively renounced. It is still there, being repressed. Being dammed up and fit to burst! Engineers know that rivers cannot be stopped but only diverted, unless you stop the rain (ask a miracle from God).

The conventional way is to get carried away by these currents. Put in other terms we become ruled by money, sex and power. We become their servants and they are the driving forces behind our lives, our raison d’etre.

Two choices: to resolve these powerful forces by denying them (even if, really, they cannot be denied) or just don’t bother to resolve them and be controlled by them (seemingly easy but fraught with problems).

But a third choice remains: to embrace these forces and to redirect their energies to positive ends. A working principle that means that money, sex and power creatively serve human life and relationships instead of being forces that rule human life. Instead of reducing human life to these dimensions, or cutting them out of human life altogether they can become forces to enhance a more whole way of being human.

Jesus said “Man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man.” Religion, and any of the vows that go along with it, are made for us, not us for them.

We don’t have to make vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. We don’t have to resign ourselves to greed, domination and lust. We just have to put money, sex and power in their proper perspective; in service of life.

And so, hear me now and my monastic vow*…

I vow to take responsibility for my wealth, enjoy it, not be controlled by it and apply it in the service of life.

I vow to take responsibility for my sexuality, enjoy it, not be controlled by it and apply it in the service of life.

I vow to take responsibility for my power, enjoy it, not be controlled by it and apply it in the service of life.

And not a robe in sight…

————————————————————————————————————————

*vows more as an process ongoing process rather than rules to live by! Can anyone be that perfect?

“The reaction to any word may be, in an individual, either a mob-reaction or an individual reaction.  It is up to the individual to ask himself:  Is my reaction individual, or am I merely reacting from my mob-self?  When it comes to the so-called obscene words, I should say that hardly one person in a million escapes mob-reaction.”  D.H. Lawrence

In a language there isn’t just words to communicate with, there is also a whole psychological structure specific to it. It gives us a model with which to view the world and to communicate about the world we sense, both the world within and the world without. But it also gives us our identity, since each language has its own history and also its own character. That character transmits itself into us a “national personality,” a sort of personality that deeply structures the human psyche from birth. In other words, stereotypes.

On one hand this can be useful; as we can see that languages and the qualities they carry are the accumulation of experience from history. Through language we are being transmitted the “wisdom of the ancestors”. On the other hand it can also carry the rubbish, the karma, of the past which is undeserved by future generations. Language isn’t just an encoding of ancestral wisdom, it has also acted as a waste bin to conveniently give the load of one generations responsibilities on to the next.

Time to sort the wheat from the chaff. Time to make a review of the type of language we use and how we use it. Say no to what is useless and harmful and encourage the growth of what is useful and healthy. Languages contain patterns, and we have to ask ourselves do we really want to repeat the past blindly? In a synchronicity a friend made a comment on Facebook about not letting an anger he had inherited from his ancestors carry on further. His affirmation that since it was not his it would stop with him and within him.

Like this we can all reject the “mob- reaction” within us, the stereotypes that have been transmitted to us through the generations, and so, as the Great Invocation says, “seal the door where evil dwells.”

For me it has been an important experience to move to another country and see my own country from “outside”, to see it from a different perspective and see its virtues in comparison to other cultures and also its vices . And so also see myself from an other perspective. Learning a new culture, and a new language, makes me rely less on the “safety blanket” of my native culture and seek to communicate with the world in a new way, and so I can only grow, retaining the benefits of my culture and discarding the disadvantages of it too, and adopting a broader view of the world that is not so limited.

La humanidad no sirve la nacionalidad, la nacionalidad sirve la humanidad. Hay mas que una lengua en el mundo y por eso el aprender otras lenguas, sólo es sentido común, el sentido de la humanidad (Thanks Mika for correcting this).

“We can argue forever what personhood means, but there is no empirical or logical way to prove it. It’s the beginning of the argument, not the endpoint.” The Wizard of Oz

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

A relative, who has studied psychology, said something which suprised me: that some psychology uses mathematical formulae to understand the human mind (something that he didn’t agree with by the way).

I sort of knew it, but… I mean… I’m… it’s… I mean… REALLY!?

Ok, maybe you can get some idea of how some things work in the human mind like that, it might be worth an experiment in the name of science, but… really?!

The problem, sorry, the “problem” with this approach is the human mind is better understood qualitively than quantatively. Is a person a nice predictable, defineable quantity that can easily fit into mathematical formula? ………. R E A L L Y ? !

Head. Brick wall. Head. Brick wall.

Personhood may not be an empirically proveable reality, as in when you take apart all those neurons and when you start dissecting personhood with words and formulae it disappears. Personhood is a gut feeling, it’s a reality of human perception. When I point at “you” there is a curious and very concrete reaction within the lump of meat encased in a skull. “You” know exactly what I mean and it needs no formal explanation to understand. Without it we’d be robots, programmed along predictable lines and would not be such a challenge to the filing system of bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is a symptom of having a very large, unwieldy, convoluted and messy society. It’s a way of keeping it organised and balanced in its daily functioning. But it is impersonal and quantitive and is not made for “persons”. Reducing the study of the human mind into something logical is a symptom of this impersonal system and, I think, detached from the real human perception of personhood. It’s not something that shouldn’t be studied, it could prove to be useful in its place. But human psychology cannot be reduced to that, and I suppose that the people that do this “mathematical” type of psychology know that (or if they don’t they’re in for a nasty shock lol).

In working with persons, there has to be a basic value: that of valuing personhood, of respecting it and of understanding it in the way it can be understood. Personhood, in my opinion, is something sacred, and it should not be reduced to a “mere” quantity. And perhaps this is why many people just aren’t interested in it, because the way it sometimes works just doesn’t value a person enough. *

One film I recommend (though with some caution, it is quite hard) is Family Life by Ken Loach. It has a good example of the different approaches in psychology, one being a more human form of therapy and another which looks more traumatic than therapeutic. One treats the person, the other treats the behaviour and puts the person on hold. Check out this IMDb link here.

And that’s why I hate paper work. Just saying it I get a bad taste in my mouth. Seriously, I could have half-filled in application forms for various works sitting in a drawer for months. I could never explain why I didn’t like it, especially as people would say “You’ve got to do it, you can’t avoid it.” But now I know, it’s because I’m more person than robot LOL.

But that’s another rant…

*I had two councellors in my teenage years. One good and one bad. The “good one” spoke to me as a human being. It was like having a “chat”, though a chat about important stuff. The “bad one” asked fairly formulaic questions, repeating “How did that make you feel?” type questions that didn’t really me tounderstand myself. Those questions are designed to help you reflect on your thoughts and feeling – hahaha :-/

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