A “Divine” Sandwich

One of my favorite fast-food sandwiches is the Burger King Wopper. (Shown here as I ordered it). I hadn’t had one since before the pandemic, so when I drove through to get one recently I couldn’t help but express my gratitude, which turned into a contemplation where I traced each of its parts back to their source.

More often I use a short formed gratitude that goes: “This (system) is so (fine, beautiful, useful, enjoyable…) I’m grateful for this opportunity to (use, consume, consider…) it. God bless its components and all those who had a hand in bringing it to me.” You can see that that usually includes many plants, animals, thousands of people and all of evolution. To get started I ask “What had to happen for this to exist?”

Not knowing the exact sources and history of the parts of a Wopper, I traced them to a general location and then referenced those to the basis of all life—earth, water and sunlight. From there, another, even quicker leap in appreciative contemplation led me to consider the eons of cosmic collisions that produced the sandwich’s elements. The step before that was the Big Bang, and before that came the unimaginable mystery that’s beyond imagining. The reason for the word “Divine” in the title of this posting, is to suggest that the divine creative process can be evidenced in a simple sandwich. 

To enhance future gratitudes that involve sandwiches, I did some research to learn more about their components.

Sesame Seed BunFlour comes from grains such as wheat, rye, barley, rice, etc. Machines collect the seeds from the head of the grass and dump it into trucks that deliver it to storage bins or a flour mill. At the mill, the grains are passed through a separator to take out foreign objects. The grains are then cleaned, washed, dried and passed between rollers to separate the bran from the germ. Once the flour has been milled to the right grade, it’s bagged and shipped to distribution warehouses. Restaurants create buns by combining yeast—a tiny microorganism, classified in the plant kingdom of fungi that feeds on natural sugars found in grains, fruits and vegetables. the seeds of canola, corn, palm, soybean or sunflower plants are crushed and the resulting oil is purified and refined. Sugar comes from sugar cane grown in warm, often tropical climates. And salt, sodium chloride, comes from seawater that’s allowed to evaporate. The crystals are collected, washed, screened and packaged, a process that takes about five years. Water is added and then vegetable oil.

Mayonnaise: This is a mix of oil, egg yolk and an acid, usually vinegar or lemon juice. A hint of spices such as garlic creates a variety of flavors.

Iceberg Lettuce: For American markets, most of it is grown in California and Arizona.

Tomatoes: These are mostly grown in California, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.

Pickles: The seeds of a special strain of cucumbers are grown to produce pickles for sandwiches. These are pickled in brine, vinegar or other solution and left to ferment.

Onions: The largest producers in the United States are Washington State, California and Oregon.

Burger: Most of the cattle raised for beef in the United States come from Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota.

American Cheese: This product is made from a blend of milk, milk fats and solids combined with other fats and whey protein concentrate. As a blended food, it can’t be called “cheese,” so it’s labeled as “processed cheese.” 

I offer this description of elements not to promote any restaurant or sandwich, but to show how any object or system, food or otherwise, can be more fully appreciated by tracing its component parts to the source—ultimately, The Source. While the model above is generalized, the process of an imaginative reverse engineering only takes about thirty seconds to a minute or two. I don’t think the universe minds if we overlook details in the evolutionary process beyond our reckoning. What matters is the gratitude, appreciating that—and how—an object or system came into our lives by virtue of its origin and history. This kind of contemplation gives us a taste of the divine, and reminds us of our deepest roots.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Carl Sagan

_____________________________

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My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

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Indigenous Principles

Until they were overpowered by warfare, ancient cultures developed a worldview, philosophy and lifestyle that was largely sustainable. Environmental and social conditions were such that they had to do this in order to survive. While language, rituals and lifestyles differed across cultures, there was consistency in many of their beliefs. That these principles survive in places today is a testiment to their success in binding people to each other and the earth.

I believe that the modern world will eventually  reinvigorate these principles because they serve as an antidote to the principles of separation, self-centeredness, short-term thinking, greed and materialism which are accelerating the forces of entropy. When a critical mass of people understand this and experience diminishment in the quality of their lives, or when life itself is threatened, they will act. 

In graduate school I minored in anthropology. All my coursework focused on Native American and Mesoamerican cultures. Since then, as an armchair anthropologist, I’ve  stayed current in these areas and recently came upon a web site that does an excellent job of describing the fundamental principles that indigenous peoples have held and continue to hold to this day. Glenn Geffcken, author of Shift: Indigenous Principles for Corporate Change, has codified them into “a system for living and working that will bring about lasting positive change.” Because, in my view, the principles are important, inspiring and extensive, I offer a taste of them here—in the author’s words. If the subject peaks your interest, I highly recommend a deeper dive into the web site—Balanced Is—to better appreciate the anciently derived mentality of those who understand how to live in harmony with each other and the earth. 

Everything Is Alive  

Everything is alive including the rocks, mountains, rivers, thunderclouds, and even the Sun and Moon. They make no distinction between biological forms of life and those we see as inanimate. To the Indigenous, everything is life.

Respect For Elders

To be an elder in the Indigenous sense is not so much about age, rather how a person has lived their life, the compassion of their heart, their humility, and their willingness to share their knowledge, teachings and stories. In Indigenous culture they are the link from the past to the present, the connecting cultural link, and the example we strive for.

The Four Directions

The principle of the Four Directions is about seeing oneself as a part of a system, that from each of the directions comes different elements, colors, animals, ways of being, and spirits. The four directions is illustrated with the medicine wheel showing us in the center, but not the kind of center that says that everything revolves around us, rather that we are surrounded by a dynamic system that works together to create and sustain life. We are no higher or lower, no better or worse, and we have neither dominion over nor are we in subservience under. We are a part of. 

Patience

Building great things requires time, consistent effort, passion, purpose, dedication, and so much more. Most importantly, it requires the patience to enjoy the process today, the building and creating, the designing and cultivating, and the eye to catch the nuanced signals telling us that we’re on the right track.

Intentionality

All the small rituals and formalities, each with their own meanings, collectively represent a process of engagement in physical and mystical acts with clear and highly focused intention… Indigenous elders, those that reach the state of “walking in beauty” have arrived at a place of wisdom, compassion, and dignity through many years of intentional acts and intentional living… Acting with carefully thought-out intention means we are thinking more broadly, with a long-term perspective. Even if our decisions are entirely self-centered, we can still make significant improvements in our lives and our work by extending our thought process beyond immediate gratification. Even more powerfully, we can dramatically change outcomes by looking for the connections between serving others and our own success.

Roles Of Men And Women

In Indigenous Society, women are held up as sacred life givers, the more spiritual gender, and the ones responsible for maintaining compassion and balance in the community. Therein lies a great misunderstanding of Indigenous culture by the Western mindset, that viewing women as nurturing compassionate life givers is diminutive to the men who hunt, go to war, and do the hard physical labor. It is considered of greater strength and courage to maintain compassion in the face of adversity than to go to battle, and of much higher importance to show one’s emotions than to pretend detachment.

Seventh Generation Unborn

Living for the seventh generation unborn means that we live each day of our lives with full cognizance that everything we do, every food we eat, every speck of dust we disturb, every piece of trash we leave behind, every natural resource we utilize, as well as every thought we have, the words we use, the kindness or compassion we express, or the selfishness we indulge in all have an effect that can carry through the generations to our great, great, great, great grand children.

The Oral Tradition

In Indigenous society wisdom and culture are handed down through stories, painstakingly memorized through years of repetition. A person who tells a story does not own the story, but rather the storyteller “carries” a story, as if the story has a life of its own independent of the storyteller. Therefore the storyteller holds a great responsibility to tell his or her stories accurately, not just in terms of the accuracy of words and details, but more so in terms of the wisdom and meaning conveyed. Each story has more to it than mere entertainment—it’s a piece of the heart of the people. It is through the listening and experiencing of the stories that the listeners learn a style of communication that empowers a person to communicate with intention, thoughtfulness, and purpose. 

I have found that a great many Native Americans will just not argue, and if one attempts to argue with them, they’ll just sit and ponder your words and say nothing, or in some situations they will listen to your point of view and only after a long pause will say something so concise, resolute and contrary, that at least in my case, I’m left without anything further to say.

Glenn Geffcken

The Way Of Love

The way of love is not so much a direct teaching of Indigenous culture as it is a byproduct of their way of life. Each of their principles for living represent a way of being that loves each part of their lives. They see themselves as a part of a living system, not separate from, but integral with. And in so being, they naturally love the system, which provides for all life… Even some of their greatest warriors, those demonized by our American history as slayers of the blue-coated soldiers, were known among their people as incredibly loving beings. 

Integrity

Many, if not all, of the indigenous principles relate in some way or another to the need for living our lives with very high ethical standards. It is not important to be honest so that people will think of us as good people, or that our company is good, or so that we can think of ourselves as being good people or running or working for a good company; the need for integrity is so highly important because it is necessary in order to be right with all that we are connected with … which is everything.

The Spirit World

The principle of the spirit world is truly vast and precisely consistent from one end of the globe to the other in the Indigenous mindset. It relates to all levels of their society. It is the starting point and the ending point for their understandings. Direct connection with this universe of knowledge and guidance is what anoints the medicine person with the right to perform ceremonies and healings. It is the guiding voice in their ceremonies, their interrelationships, planting cycles, direction for hunts, how to resolve conflict, and so much more.

The Warrior Spirit

The “warrior spirit” in the Indigenous sense, is largely regarded as a person, man or woman, who has vowed their life to the betterment of their family, community, nation, collectively “their people,” and that they will act and make decisions for that greater good regardless of how hard it may be or the consequences as they pertain to the warrior him or herself… We are required to behave like warriors, willing to do what it takes for the greater good regardless of what it requires of ourselves personally.

_____________________________

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My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Kenōsis: Recipe For Inner Abundance

In 2018, when His Holiness The Dalai Lama requested the Mind and Life Institute to organize a weeklong dialogue with top scientists and scholars to discuss the ecological situation and offer ways to move forward constructively, one of the participants was Sallie McFague, a Distinguished Theologian at the Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia, Canada. She died a year later. Her writings analyzed how metaphor lies at the heart of how we speak about God, and she applied it to ecology—caring for the earth as if it were God’s body. I was inspired by the book that resulted from the Mind and Life dialogue: Ecology, Ethics, And Interdependence (1). In particular, Sallie introduced me to an expanded meaning of the word “Kenōsis,” a term I hadn’t heard in many years but was so moved by I wrote Love—Period!, a screenplay that revolves around  the concept. 

Kenōsis derives from kenoun, a Greek word meaning “to empty out” or “purge.” Eary Christian theologians used it to refer to Jesus’ act of “self-emptying”—relinquishing divine attributes (and some say His personal will)—in order to experience human suffering and death. In Blessed Are The Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (2) Sallie elaborates her thesis: “We are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. And this turns out to be kenōtic, a sacrificial love.” In the dialogue with The Dalai Lama and invited guests she said “Real abundance in life doesn’t come from getting more and more things, it comes from giving up those things when others need them—and living differently.” 

The first of Buddhism’s eight paramitas (perfections) for enlightened action is dama, or mutual generosity—if we have something, anything that could benefit another who needs it, then to give it away benefits all. 

The idea of “giving up” and words like “self-emptying,” “restraint” and “sacrifice” go against the cultural grain of materialism, but most religions and spiritual philosophies have from the outset proclaimed that happiness is found more in relationships than in things, and that simple living can lead to a fuller life. Sallie says “The abundant  life, at both personal and public levels, is not found by satisfying one’s ego in a market-oriented, individualistic culture, but is found by losing one’s self in service to others.” Further, noting that every breath we take and every mouthful we eat depends on others, she says “Abundant life for all (my emphasis) is only possible if some of us restrain our desires.” 

As I write, the current world population is approaching 8 billion souls. Scientists generally agree that the earth’s carrying capacity is 10 billion. It’s a hopeful sign that, in the wake of Covid-19, climate catastrophes, social confrontations and political arrogance and stalemate more of us are becoming aware of how deeply we are interconnected and interdependent with all other forms of life, and we’re appreciating the planet’s vulnerability. Sallie wrote that the “Vocabulary of self-limitation, egolessness, sharing, giving space to others and limiting our energy use no longer sounds like a special language for the saints, but rather, as an ethic for all of us.” Meaning those of us who enjoy the privilege of abundance. 

My mom sometimes admonished my sister and me to eat everything on our plate, offering the perspective that “People in China are starving.” Now, people are starving everywhere. A BBC journalist recently posted a television story on the likelihood of enormous mass migrations  given the increase in deforestation, drought and other climate catastrophes. Considering the challenges that lie ahead, the practice of kenōsis or restraint may seem like a small thing, but it’s something we all can do. And as Sallie noted, “real abundance” is making some space in our lives so others may flourish. It’s a gift we can give to the world, right here, right now.

In Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence, editor John Dunne (1) said “We need practical guidance on what we can do.” Sallie responded to him by offering her “planetary house rules”—“Take only your share. Clean up after yourself. And keep the house in good repair for others.” Wanting to be more specific, I created the following list of guidelines. Full disclosure—some of them I can’t or don’t do for one reason or another right now, but I hold them as an ideal. They’re the kinds of activity that contribute to the practice kenōsis.

  • Satisfy wants less frequently than needs
  • Refrain from buying or replacing a vehicle that runs on fossil fuel
  • Limit the purchase of shoes, clothes or other wearing apparel
  • Leave the lights off until necessary
  • Use existing materials of any kind before buying new
  • Borrow books and videos from the library rather than purchase them
  • For short distances, ride a bicycle
  • Pick up litter so it doesn’t get flushed down the sewer system
  • Offer charitable contributions to ecology-focused nonprofit initiatives
  • Drive the shortest distance between two points
  • Turn off electronic devices when not needed for long periods
  • Don’t leave a car or truck motor running when not in use
  • Cut back on meat
  • Buy organic produce as much as possible
  • Use fewer devices that require disposable batteries
  • Use existing office supplies before buying more
  • Recycle everything possible
  • Use hand rather than power tools, especially those that burn fossil fuel
  • Ask for paper rather than plastic cups at restaurants
  • Borrow or rent tools rather than purchase them
  • Take shorter and fewer hot showers
  • Reduce the use of plastic containers
  • Take reusable cloth bags to the grocery store

In my postings, I often refer to the principle that decisions made by the members of a living system maintain and improve the functionality and sustainability of the whole by taking responsibility for the health and well-being of both themselves and the greater whole. The practice of kenōsis—restraint—is one of the ways we can directly impact our communities, nations and planet. It may seem like a small thing, but it has a cumulative effect. And in doing them our inner life is nourished and enriched. One of Sallie McFague’s great contributions to the world has been to reintroduce and ask us to consider kenōsis, the idea that by emptying our lives of certain physical comforts and material goods, our souls are filled up. 

REFERENCES

1. John Dunne and Daniel Goleman Editors. (2018). Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence: The Dalai Lama in Conversation with Leading Thinkers on Climate Change. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

2. McFague, Sallie. (2013) Blessed Are The Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

3. Mind And Life Institute: In my opinion, an exceptional organization that’s changing the world for the better. The language on their Mission page is values-rich. Here’s the link: “Who We Are—Mission.”


I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Reality Mirrors Beliefs

“The world reflects back to you what you deeply believe.” I wasn’t sure of the source of this quote, but it recently prompted me to wonder. Could the negative belief that my three novels of the ancient Maya are not being widely read is actually creating that reality? Some research explained that subconscious beliefs shape the world of our experience. (1) We get what we believe to be true. The above composite (created many years ago; someone I didn’t know) was titled “No matter where you go, there you are.” Apropos, I think.

In childhood, we develop generalizations about who we are and how the world works based on our observations and experiences with family, friends, teachers and others. Gradually, the subconscious mind absorbs information, stories and experiences and they shape our identity, personality and worldview. The subconscious doesn’t discriminate between good and bad, right or wrong, healthy or not. It stores everything continuously and creates an internal reservoir that holds our beliefs. And we measure everything against them, accepting new information, ideas and experiences that are familiar and rejecting those that are unfamiliar or in conflict. Psychologists and others refer to the overall reservoir of acquired perspectives, values, beliefs and memories as the “conditioned self.” In contrast, the “authentic,” unconditioned self is a property of the soul. That’s why it’s a more dependable guide than the ego-driven mind. 

Another finding was that whatever the situation, most people would rather be right than happy. A study by a team of researchers at the University of Auckland (2) concluded: “We saw that ‘right versus happy’ was not so much about getting crowned the winner or loser, a genius or fool; it was more about flawed thinking and a desire to want to feel like we’re in control. Our null hypothesis was that it is better to be right than happy.” 

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln

The research also illuminated our powerful need for consistency between what we believe to be true and what is actually true. We’ll even arrange to be right by rationalizing, lying, cheating or creating situations that confirm our belief. What agrees with us is right; what doesn’t is wrong.  And that has considerable consequences. Dan Mager (3) of Psychology Today writes, “For someone who is emotionally attached to the need to be right, all divergent perspectives, ideas, suggestions, and actions must be ‘wrong.’ The need to be right convinces him or her of the correctness of his or her approach, while attachment to this end serves to justify the means used to facilitate it. When this dynamic is acted out, it creates suffering for those caught in its wake.” Keeping an open mind takes tremendous courage, because it requires putting a temporary “hold” on what we think is right. 

Another consequence of negative beliefs—about oneself, others, career, relationships, ideas, policies—is how they block manifestation, for instance my desire to sell more books. When we focus on what we don’t want—for instance “I don’t want John Doe to win the election”—the subconscious doesn’t see or hear the words. Instead, the mind and the energy of the universe responds to the images and feelings we hold, in particular what’s in the heart, because at that level like produces like. Negative thoughts, images and feelings drive toward and eventually evoke negative outcomes. The solution then, is to focus on what we do want and solidify it with reinforcing positive images and emotions.

Since whatever you deeply believe comes true in your life, you could make a conscious choice to believe whatever would create a happier, more peaceful life… You do not have to believe what appeared true based on past experience or continue to believe just because you gave your allegiance to it before.

Isira Sananda 

Not enough time has passed for me to notice if my transformed belief will allow my books (4) to be  more widely read, but whether or not that happens, the possibility allows me to rest with less attachment to the outcome. And that’s both freeing and hopeful.

References

1. Breines, J. (2015) 3 Ways Your Beliefs Can Shape Your Reality, Psychology Today, August 30, 2015.

2. Arroll, B, Goodyear-Smith, F., Moyes, Simon A., Kenealy, T. Being Right Or Being Happy: Pilot Study, BMJ; Research Gate, December, 2013.

3. Mager, D. Would You Rather Be Right or Would You Rather Be Happy? Psychology Today, July 24, 2014.

4. Smith, D.L. A trilogy: The Path of The Jaguar (One soul in three incarnations)

Jaguar Rising: A Novel of the Preclassic Maya

Jaguar Wind and Waves: A Novel of the Early Classic Maya

Jaguar Sun: The Journey of an Ancient Maya Storyteller

_____________________________

I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Spirit Lives On

Downtown on a playground

A little girl saw a white man

With a camera

And she ran to him.

Take my pitcher!

Take my pitcher!

Take my pitcher!

She shouted.

When photographing in other cultures

The pointing of my camera

Sometimes caused children to turn away

And adults to turn their backs.

What’s the difference I wonder?

Was it the camera?

The man being tall and white?

How their image might be used?

What I know for sure,

The photograph of the playground girl

Makes my heart grin

Every time I encounter her smile.

Dear Follower:

Thank you for following! With this posting I’m adding another dimension to Contemplative Photography. From the outset, my purpose was to share and generate appreciation for subject matter elicited by one of my photographs.My last series was on Nature, trees and flowers in particular. Now the focus will be less on “things” and more on ideas and insights that contribute to meaning and enhanced living. The  pacing and format will be the same—one photograph each week, usually B&W, with contemplations kept as short as possible. The categories will include:

          • Anthropology
          • Art
          • Consciousness
          • Cosmology
          • Ecology
          • Evolutionary Process
          • Media (Function, influence, potential)
          • Nature (Appreciation)
          • Personal Growth
          • Philosophy (Eastern and Western)
          • Photography (As medium for personal growth)
          • Social Development & Transformation
          • Spirituality (Not religion)
          • Whole Systems Thinking

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts on both the content and photographs. 


I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

A “Divine” Sandwich

One of my favorite fast-food sandwiches is the Burger King Wopper. (Shown here as I ordered it). I hadn’t had one since before the pandemic, so when I drove through to get one recently I couldn’t help but express my gratitude, which turned into a contemplation where I traced each of the parts back to their source.

More often I use a short formed gratitude that goes: “This (system) is so (fine, beautiful, useful…) I’m grateful for this opportunity to (use, enjoy, consider…) it. God bless its components and all those who had a hand in bringing it to me.” You can see that that usually includes many plants, animals, thousands of people and all of evolution. My usual question is “What had to happen for this to exist?”

Not knowing the exact sources and history of the parts of this sandwich, I traced them to a general location and then referenced those to the basis of all life—earth, water and sunlight. From there, another, even quicker leap in appreciative contemplation led me to consider the eons of cosmic collisions that produced the sandwich’s elements. The step before that was the Big Bang, and before that came the unimaginable mystery that’s beyond all imagining. The reason for the word “Divine” in the title of this posting, is to suggest that the divine creative process can be evidenced in a simple sandwich. 

To enhance future gratitudes that involve sandwiches, I did some research on the computer to learn more about their components.

Sesame Seed BunFlour comes from grains such as wheat, rye, barley, rice, etc. Machines collect the seeds from the head of the grass and dump it into trucks that deliver it to storage bins or a flour mill. At the mill, the grains are passed through a separator to take out foreign objects. The grains are then cleaned, washed, dried and passed between rollers to separate the bran from the germ. Once the flour has been milled to the right grade, it’s bagged and shipped to distribution warehouses. Restaurants create buns by combining yeast—a tiny microorganism, classified in the plant kingdom of fungi that feeds on natural sugars found in grains, fruits and vegetables. the seeds of canola, corn, palm, soybean or sunflower plants are crushed and the resulting oil is purified and refined. Sugar comes from sugar cane grown in warm, often tropical climates. And salt, sodium chloride, comes from seawater that’s allowed to evaporate. The crystals are collected, washed, screened and packaged, a process that takes about five years. Water is added and then vegetable oil.

Mayonnaise: This is a mix of oil, egg yolk and an acid, usually vinegar or lemon juice. A hint of spices such as garlic creates a variety of flavors.

Iceberg Lettuce: For American markets, most of it is grown in California and Arizona.

Tomatoes: These are mostly grown in California, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.

Pickles: The seeds of a special strain of cucumbers are grown to produce pickles for sandwiches. These are pickled in brine, vinegar or other solution and left to ferment.

Onions: The largest producers in the United States are Washington State, California and Oregon.

Burger: Most of the cattle raised for beef in the United States come from Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota.

American Cheese: This product is made from a blend of milk, milk fats and solids combined with other fats and whey protein concentrate. As a blended food, it can’t be called “cheese,” so it’s labeled as “processed cheese.” 

I offer this description of elements not to promote any restaurant or sandwich, but to show how any object or system, food or otherwise, can be more fully appreciated by tracing their component parts to the source—ultimately, The Source. While the model above is generalized, the process of reverse engineering only takes about thirty seconds to a minute or two. I don’t think the universe minds if we overlook details in the evolutionary process beyond our reckoning. What matters is the gratitude, appreciating that—and how—an object or system came into our lives by virtue of its origin and history. This kind of contemplation gives us a taste of the divine, and reminds us of our deepest roots.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Carl Sagan

_____________________________

I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Crisis / Transformation

All being, inanimate and living, without exception, follows the cycle of life. What comes into existence sustains for a time then succumbs to entropy. Knowing this and that the important factor for human beings is time, we can look within the process of change to find opportunities to slow the process of entropy as much as possible—physically and socially.

Breakdowns are an indication that the old is losing its vitality and viability. The parts in mechanical and electronic systems can be repaired or replaced by their owner. Human beings and nations, however, have to make a host of decisions to sustain their functioning. And it matters greatly how those decisions are made, especially the nature of the response.

Our response results in either peace or suffering. Life provides the stimulus, but we provide the response—acceptance of what is brings peace; resistance, which we learned as a way to feel safe and avoid pain, more often brings suffering because the desire is for something other than what is. In social systems, a compounding of crises is a clear indication that the status quo is dysfunctional. Rather than resist, we can appreciate that what looks and feels like chaos and collapse is actually life calling for us to assess, reorganize and evolve. For any response to be appropriate and sustaining personally and socially, the assessment needs to begin with an examination of how we think. 

What is breaking down and why is it happening? The answer points to the area where attention is needed. In human systems, because thought precedes action, attention must above all be paid to the thinking that caused and sustains the breakdown. Civilizations have died because their responses were based upon traditional thinking. According to Albert Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” He also said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

When people are suffering the consequences of breakdowns, their dissatisfaction with the status quo moves them to “think outside the box,” to discover a more viable, life-enhancing way to live. As a social system becomes increasingly dysfunctional, “emergents”—social innovators and activists—provide the direction and become a model for what works. In the realm of governance worldwide, the pendulum of change tends to swing between extremes in leadership, philosophies and policies. Ultimately though, no matter the form of government, because the quality of life is at stake the power to affect positive change lies with individuals at the bottom of the social pyramid. What it takes is an emergent leader willing to risk everything and lead by example. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lewis were such leaders.  

In the moment of rejection of domination lies the seeds of transformation and liberation.

Seth Kreisberg

What can we do socially? Witnessing social breakdowns, we can look for and lend our support to the emergents—individuals who put service above personal gain, who associate and collaborate with experienced and intelligent experts and whose actions point the way toward making a better life for all. Where there is separation, they plant seeds of unification. Where there’s conflict, they facilitate communication to find common ground. Where there’s ignorance, they foster increased education and experience. Where there are unreasonable and destructive gaps, they work to close them. Where there are walls, they build bridges. Where there’s prejudice they facilitate and encourage shared experiences between adversaries. Where there’s hate, they work to disarm it with compassion and love. And when other nations attempt to undermine a nation’s core values, they shore up their defenses and assert their values ever more strongly—by example. 

Locally, we can bring our lives into balance and live what we preach. In class, I sometimes advised students to do something every day, however small, to realize their dream—if even to just think about it. In this context, we could pick the crisis that concerns us most and decide to do something about it—if even to pray or think about what ought to be done. Importantly, we can vote our conscience and encourage others to vote.  

When just one person takes on the challenges of becoming more accepting, allowing, and strong, a ripple effect is created. Everyone in that person’s sphere is now touched with the new possibility. Even if the reasons are unclear, anyone who plays by new rules will be noticed by others. Individuals functioning from this level of transformation are the pioneers of the new community, planting new seeds of the future.

George Land

_____________________________

I welcome your comments below.

My email: <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Coherence

In whole-systems parlance, ordering specifies the arrangement of parts. Coherence is the adhering property of those parts, the quality that forms a unified whole. In mechanical systems, their design creates functional relationships that unify the parts. In living systems, the “glue” holding their members together is the desire or intention to connect, to unite. When architect, systems theorist, inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller noted that “Love is metaphysical gravity,” he postulated that love is the universal cohering agent, attracting and holding everything together. 

When the above image was made, I could see the force of attraction operating within and between the spheres of oil as they sought to establish their proper size, shape and location in relation to the spheres around them on the surface of a jar water. Working out their shape and relationships was dynamic, a continuous process of adapting to change among the cells as the surface moved. In time, the system reached homeostasis. Rest. In living systems, the quest for identity, right relationships and making appropriate adjustments to change never ends; homeostasis is equivalent to death. Instead, the urge toward coherence—as the song says: “Finding love in all the right places…”—diminishes the urgency and intensity of conflict, and promotes a level of comfort, confidence, balance and peace. So it is with all living systems—cells, plants, animals, persons, nations and the earth. Fragmentation is incoherence. 

Coherence is in evidence everywhere. In medical science, it’s viewed as a highly efficient physical state in which the body’s nervous system, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems are all working efficiently and harmoniously as one—considered by physicians as the highest level of physical functioning. 

When the body is coherent, its immune system is strong and resistant to disease. Everything we do either promotes or counters coherence and thus our and our environment’s evolution and development; it is either healthy or unhealthy, and is either constructive or destructive.

Ervin Laszlo

In physics, coherence describes properties of correlation between physical quantities of a single wave, several waves or wave packets. For instance, two wave sources are said to be perfectly “coherent”—resonant, lined up—when their frequency and waveforms are in step. In literature, writers of fiction and non-fiction aspire to coherence, the harmonizing of a story or message that unifies a piece through the use of theme or organization. When the writing is coherent, there’s integrity, everything holds together. It makes sense as a whole. 

In psychology, coherence occurs when aspects of personality are in tune through increased awareness. Coherence represents the extent of unity and wholeness within the individual.

When our emotions and mind are brought into coherent alignment with the heart, our brain and heart are operating in a synergetic way. We then experience a deeper intuitive inner guidance. In other words, heart intelligence can be defined as the ability of our heart to sync all of the systems of our body to bring a higher state of awareness, and to bring more clarity and focus to our lives. 

HeartMath Institute,

 

The HeartMath Institute considers the heart to be “Our inner guide and the key to help us find our purpose in life.” 

In religion, faith is the agent that binds followers to a particular tradition. In Catholicism it’s codified in a set of beliefs professed in the “Apostle’s Creed.” Judaism’s fundamental beliefs are contained in the Torah, which prescribes 613 commandments codified in Rambam’s 13 Principles of Jewish Faith. Buddhists find moral cohesion in the practice of compassion and mind-disciplining precepts and the Buddha’s “The Eightfold Path.” For many years, His Holiness The Dalai Lama has been a leader in building coherence between science and spirituality. In the Sufi tradition, coherence is considered an aspect of the Divine Reality. As an aspiration the members intend to embody, it offers specific practices and ceremonies of coherence that include meditation. 

Love is the ultimate state of coherence because it unifies the individual with the ultimate reality of the field of existence. Negative states such as fear, resentment, arrogance, and selfishness represent a disordering of the field. These negative states lead to disharmony in our relationships and, finally, leave us at war with ourselves. Coherence is disturbed by egoistic self-assertion. The humility that love engenders is a divine attribute, erasing the distorting forces of egoism. Practically speaking, love is a magnetism of the heart that engenders a coherent ordering of all our human faculties.

Shaikh Kabir Edmund Helminski (Co-founder, The Threshold Society) 

In her book, Coherent Self, Coherent World, Diana Durham notes that a profoundly negative belief about one’s self can easily turn a person into an addict—“Someone who abuses something in order to try to ease an addiction. In the case of the gunman, the addiction has to do with power. He feels powerless, and to make up for it, tries to control others through violence and the power of the gun… The problem is the more he fishes (acts out), the more wounded he becomes. The more an alcoholic reaches for a drink to make him feel good, the more he needs it. The more we need other people to validate us, the more violent we will become in our attempts to control them.” Money, fame, drugs, friends. They can easily become distractions. “The more we need them, the greater the risks we will take to achieve our ambitions. When we disconnect from our inner self we feel partial, empty, powerless. To compensate, we go fishing to try and fill the void… We pinch ourselves off from the force of love when we harbour beliefs that are discordant to its frequency.” The remedy then is to transform negative beliefs into positive with the realization that, by virtue of the soul, we are all made in the image and likeness of Love. Turning within, we become coherent with others and the world. 

Love, the affinity of being for being, is indeed a magnetic and mysterious force. Like oxygen, it’s only known through experience—a tender stirring in the heart and the deep knowing of the soul.  The quality of experience within all living systems above the individual  ,depends on the relative coherence of the person’s body, mind and soul—how well they are attuned, integrated as a whole toward realizing ones purpose. The Coronavirus has us all living in a bubble—literally. But like the multitude of bubbles in the image above, the drive to cohere—within us and beyond us—calls for adjustment, reassessing our personal and social identity, creating new ways to relate, reexamining our values and resetting our priorities. 

Underlying the stresses of the current era, whether from medical, economic, social or political sources we can take to heart what John F. Kennedy proclaimed before the Canadian Parliament, “What unites us is far greater than what divides us.” Irrespective of time and culture, what unites us, the glue that holds us together, whether we know it or not, is the love that we are—and are compelled to share. Viewed as part of the evolutionary process, we’re in an era characterized by formidable rapids. Again, referencing the photograph, the sooner we each take responsibility—appropriate action—for the stresses, the sooner we’ll enter the calmer water. And be whole.

_____________________________________

I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Kenōsis: Recipe For Inner Abundance

In 2018, when His Holiness The Dalai Lama requested the Mind and Life Institute to organize a weeklong dialogue with top scientists and scholars to discuss our ecological situation and offer ways to move forward constructively, one of the participants was Sallie McFague, a Distinguished Theologian at the Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia, Canada. She died in 2019. Her writings analyzed how metaphor lies at the heart of how we speak about God, and she applied it to ecology—caring for the earth as if it were God’s body. I was inspired by the book that resulted from that dialogue: Ecology, Ethics, And Interdependence (1). In particular, Sallie introduced me to an expanded meaning of the word “Kenosis,” a term I hadn’t heard in many years but was so moved by I wrote Love—Period!, a screenplay that revolves around  the concept. 

Kenōsis derives from kenoun, a Greek word meaning “to empty out” or “purge.” Eary Christian theologians used it to refer to Jesus’ act of “self-emptying”—relinquishing divine attributes (and some say His personal will)—in order to experience human suffering and death. In Blessed Are The Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (2) Sallie elaborates her thesis: “We are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. And this turns out to be  kenōtic, a sacrificial love.” In the dialogue with His Holiness The Dalai Lama and invited guests she said “Real abundance in life doesn’t come from getting more and more things, it comes from giving up those things when others need them—and living differently.” 

The first of Buddhism’s eight paramitas (perfections) for enlightened action is dama, or mutual generosity—if we have something, anything that could benefit another who needs it, then to give it away benefits all. 

The idea of “giving up” and words like “self-emptying,” “restraint” and “sacrifice” go against the cultural grain, but most religions and spiritual philosophies have from the outset proclaimed that happiness is found more in relationships than in things, and that simple living can lead to a fuller life. Sallie says “The abundant  life, at both personal and public levels, is not found by satisfying one’s ego in a market-oriented, individualistic culture, but is found by losing one’s self in service to others.” Further, noting that every breath we take and every mouthful we eat depends on others, she says “Abundant life for all (my emphasis) is only possible if some of us restrain our desires.” 

As I write, the current world population is approaching 8 billion souls. Scientists generally agree that the earth’s carrying capacity is 10 billion. It’s a hopeful sign that, in the wake of Covid-19, climate catastrophes, social confrontations and political ignorance more of us are becoming aware of how deeply we are interconnected and interdependent with all other forms of life, and we’re appreciating the planet’s vulnerability. Sallie wrote that the “Vocabulary of self-limitation, egolessness, sharing, giving space to others and limiting our energy use no longer sounds like a special language for the saints, but rather, as an ethic for all of us.” Meaning those of us who enjoy the privilege of abundance. 

My mother sometimes admonished my sister and me to eat everything on our plate, offering the perspective that “People are starving in China.” Now, people are starving everywhere. A BBC journalist recently posted a television story on the likelihood of enormous mass migrations  given the increase in deforestation, drought and other climate catastrophes. Considering the challenges that lie ahead, the practice of kenōsis or restraint may seem like a small thing, but it’s something we all can do. And as Sallie noted, “real abundance” is making some space in our lives so others may flourish. It’s a gift we can give to the world, right here and now.

In Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence, editor John Dunne said “We need practical guidance on what we can do.” Sallie responded to him by offering her “planetary house rules”—“Take only your share. Clean up after yourself. And keep the house in good repair for others.” Wanting to be more specific, I created the following list of guidelines. Full disclosure—some of them I can’t or don’t do for one reason or another right now, but I hold them as an ideal. They’re the kinds of activity that contribute to the practice kenōsis.

  • Satisfy wants less frequently than needs
  • Refrain from buying or replacing a vehicle that runs on fossil fuel
  • Limit the purchase of shoes, clothes or other wearing apparel
  • Leave the lights off until necessary
  • Use existing materials of any kind before buying new
  • Borrow books and videos from the library rather than purchase them
  • For short distances, ride a bicycle
  • Pick up litter so it doesn’t get flushed down the sewer system
  • Offer charitable contributions to ecology-focused nonprofit initiatives
  • Drive the shortest distance between two points
  • Turn off electronic devices when not needed for long periods
  • Don’t leave a car or truck motor running when not in use
  • Cut back on meat
  • Buy organic produce as much as possible
  • Use fewer devices that require disposable batteries
  • Use existing office supplies before buying more
  • Recycle everything possible
  • Use hand rather than power tools, especially those that burn fossil fuel
  • Ask for paper rather than plastic cups at restaurants
  • Borrow or rent tools rather than purchase them
  • Take shorter and fewer hot showers
  • Reduce the use of plastic containers
  • Take reusable cloth bags to the grocery store

In my postings, I often refer to the principle that decisions made by the members of a living  system maintain and improve the functionality and sustainability of the whole by taking responsibility for the health and well-being of both themselves and the greater systems in which they live. The practice of kenōsis—restraint—is one of the ways we can directly impact our communities, nations and planet. And in doing so, our inner life is nourished and enriched. One of Sallie McFague’s great contributions to the world is material kenōsis, the idea that by emptying our lives of certain comforts and stuff, our souls are filled up. 

REFERENCES

1. John Dunne and Daniel Goleman Editors. (2018). Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence: The Dalai Lama in Conversation with Leading Thinkers on Climate Change. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

2. McFague, Sallie. (2013) Blessed Are The Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

3. Mind And Life Institute: In my opinion, an exceptional organization that’s changing the world for the better. The language on their Mission page is values-rich. Here’s the link: “Who We Are—Mission.”


I welcome your comments at <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)

Crisis—Transformation

All being, inanimate and living, without exception, follow the cycle of life. What comes into existence sustains for a time then succumbs to entropy. Knowing this and that the important factor for human beings is time, we can look within the process of change to find opportunities to slow the process of entropy as much as possible—physically and socially.

Breakdowns are an indication that the old is losing its vitality and viability. The parts in mechanical and electronic systems can be repaired or replaced by their owner. Human beings and nations, however, have to make a host of decisions to sustain their functioning. And it matters greatly how those decisions are made, especially the nature of the response. Personally, it’is our response that gives us either peace or suffering. Life provides the stimulus, but we provide the response—acceptance of what is brings peace; resistance, which we learned as a way to feel safe and avoid pain, more often brings suffering because the desire is for something other than what is. In social systems, a compounding of crises is a clear indication that the status quo is dysfunctional. Rather than resist, we can appreciate that what looks and feels like chaos and collapse is actually life calling for us to assess, reorganize and evolve. For any response to be appropriate and sustaining personally and socially, the assessment needs to begin with examination. 

What is breaking down and why is it happening? The answer points to the area where attention is needed. In human systems, because thought precedes action, attention must above all be paid to the thinking that caused the breakdown. Civilizations have died because their responses were based upon traditional thinking. According to Albert Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” He also said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

When people are suffering the consequences of breakdowns, their dissatisfaction with the status quo moves them to “think outside the box,” to discover a more viable, life-enhancing way to live. As the system becomes increasingly dysfunctional, the “emergents” provide the direction and become a model for what works. In the realm of governance worldwide, the pendulum of change tends to swing between extremes in leadership, philosophies and policies. Ultimately though, no matter the form of government, because the quality of life is at stake the power to affect positive change lies with the individuals at the bottom of the social pyramid. What it takes is an emergent who’s willing to die for the more aware and evolved state—and leading by example. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lewis come to mind.  

In the moment of rejection of domination lies the seeds of transformation and liberation.

Seth Kreisberg

Socially what can we do? Witnessing social breakdowns, we can look for and lend our support to the emergents—individuals who put service above personal gain, who associate and collaborate with experienced and intelligent experts and whose actions point the way toward making a better life for all. Where there is separation they plant seeds of unification. Where there’s conflict, they facilitate communication to find common ground. Where there’s ignorance, they foster increased education and experience. Where there are unreasonable and destructive gaps they work to close them. Where there are walls, they build bridges. Where there’s prejudice they facilitate and encourage shared experiences between adversaries. Where there’s hate, they work to disarm it with compassion and love. And when other nations attempt to undermine a nation’s core values, they shore up their defenses and assert their values ever more strongly—by example. 

Locally, we can bring our lives into balance and live what we preach. In class, I sometimes advised students to do something every day, however small, to realize their dream—if even to just think about it. In this context, we could pick the crisis that concerns us most and decide to do something about it—if even to think about what ought to be done.  

When just one person takes on the challenges of becoming more accepting, allowing, and strong, a ripple effect is created. Everyone in that person’s sphere is now touched with the new possibility. Even if the reasons are unclear, anyone who plays by new rules will be noticed by others. Individuals functioning from this level of transformation are the pioneers of the new community, planting new seeds of the future.

George Land

_____________________________

I welcome your comments below.

My email: <smithdl@fuse.net>

My portfolio site: DavidLSmithPhotography.com

My photo books: <www.blurb.com/search/site_search> 

(Enter “David L. Smith” and “Bookstore” in “Search)