global change, Intelligence, simplicity, Uncategorized

HOW TO RESPOND

As a Scot living in Catalunya, with a keen interest in world affairs, I often wonder how to respond to current events. The litany is all too familiar – the madness of Trump, the sadness of Brexit, the pathologies of radical Islam and climate change, as well as the local struggle here for independence.

Although there are dark clouds on the horizon, I see quite a few silver linings. Trump will go, probably sooner than we imagine; we will, at last, stop tolerating the stupidities and abuses of Islam; people will realise that Brexit is a big mistake, and do something about it; and, hard as it is to believe, we will eventually stop destroying this planet and its climate. Of all this I am certain.

True, we will go through some unpleasant moments before all this happens, but perhaps we need to. Perhaps we need extremely loud wake-up calls before we really do come to our senses. As for my adopted home, Catalunya, I know the strength of feeling here and the quiet determination. Independence will surely come, sooner or later.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with intelligent simplicity. Two things. First, it is intelligently simple to allow crises to pass – they always do! Trump, radical Islam, Brexit and climate change will all pass. When we recognise this, it makes it easier to live our lives. We don’t have to fret all the time!

Second, it is intelligently simple to be realistic about what you, personally, can do to change things. On the world stage you can do very little. On your own stage you can do a lot. For example, if you are living an intelligent and simple life, you are already making a difference. And if you are consciously working on your own evolution, the whole world somehow benefits.

Intelligence, natural

SEEING THE UNFORESEEN

We don’t see the unforeseen until it happens. When it does happen, we see just how unforeseen it was! And we realise how little we foresee.

Ana broke her leg yesterday. We were just settling into high summer here in the Catalan Pyrenees and were looking forward to spending time with my son and his family. Suddenly there was a yell from the garden. Ana had fallen from some rocks. Four hours later she was on the operating table, wondering about foresight!

Just as I had to slowly recover my mobility and independence after breaking my leg skiing in March, so Ana will have to go through the same process. A few days in hospital, a few weeks confined to bed at home, and then the uncomfortable part – learning to get around on crutches.

My own recovery made me realise how fragile we are, and how dependent we are on each other. It’s a good lesson. I hope it teaches me not to ski when I am tired…and that I am mortal after all. And I hope it teaches Ana not to fall from rocks!

Yes, it is true that we are fragile and dependent on each other. However, in the spirit of evolution, we bounce back, move forward, and continue taking risks and pushing the boundaries, just as before, but armed with a little more experience and humility.

CT
1 August 2018

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, simplicity

THE LITTLE THINGS

Take care of the pennies, and the pounds take care of themselves. And it’s true. When you pay attention to the “little things”, the big things usually work out well. Goethe no doubt had this in mind when he said “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

Of course, it is understandable that we think about the big things, be these personal, societal or global. We worry about the state of the world or about a particular problem, so we get involved in some movement to “change the world.” This could be politics or an NGO or some voluntary activity. Yet whoever it was who said “Be the change” knew what he or she was talking about! If you want to address climate change or indeed any other big problem, just make sure that you are not part of the problem. How you do this is up to you. Be the world in miniature that you wish to create.

None of this is to suggest that you should not get involved in politics or an NGO or some other “helping activity”. But it is to suggest that you first put your own house in order before you even think about trying to put society’s house in order. If you don’t, you are likely to end up like those people who preach “Do as I say, not as I do!”

The Japanese have taken all this to an art form. Paying attention to the little things and putting one’s own house in order are central components of their culture. To take one example – the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu). To an outsider this may seem painfully stylised. To a Japanese the intricate moves are confirmation that if you hope to do the big things well, you first have to learn top do the little things well. This is why, in a Zen or Taoist training, the pupil first has to learn to basic things well – things such as walking elegantly or sitting quietly, doing nothing. Believe it or not, it takes a lot of time to learn to basic things well. Only when the pupil has really mastered the basics is he or she ready to move on to the bigger things.

Now here’s a thought. Just set aside a day every so often when you pay attention only to the “little things.” Put the big things right out of your mind. See what a difference it makes!

CT
30 July 2018

being natural, global change, Intelligence, natural

THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Hopefully, we all become more conscious as we go through life. Yes, I accept that it’s easy to think of exceptions, such as some current world leaders! Generally speaking, however, I believe that growing in consciousness is a natural part of life’s journey. As we get older, we notice and experience things that we had not noticed or experienced before – about ourselves, other people and the world. This growth in consciousness is normally accompanied by a corresponding growth in knowledge and understanding. In other words, as we notice and experience more, we understand better what we are noticing and experiencing. There is a growth both in quantity and in quality!

That much seems clear. The question I want to address today is this: is our normal growth in consciousness one and the same as evolution of consciousness? The short answer is yes, it could be, in certain circumstances. This needs a little explanation.

Conventionally, we call something “evolution” if it is permanent change, and if it applies to the whole species. Thus, the next generation is born with whatever has evolved in previous generations. A topical example of this is the remarkable ability of very young children (as young as 2) to use technology, such as mobile phones, TV remote controls, and to access their preferred YouTube videos, all without the help pf adults. My grandchildren, aged 3, can easily do what I found hard to do only a few years ago. There has undoubtedly been a generational change, and we are probably justified in calling this “evolution in ability”.

But does this also apply to consciousness? Is my grandchildren’s generation naturally more conscious than mine? For me, the jury is still out. I accept that something does seem to have changed in human consciousness. For example, as a species we are more conscious than ever that everything is connected to everything else, and that the familiar physical world is only part of a much bigger picture. We are also more consciousness of the “human family” and of this planet as a living entity. The problem is that a big part of this “greater consciousness” is knowledge and understanding, which have grown immensely over the last 100 years or so. Only part of what we call “greater consciousness” is actually consciousness! So, to be clear, what I am talking about here is not the fact that we notice and experience more. There can be no doubt that we do. What I am talking about is our capacity to notice and experience more. For me, it is only when that capacity itself grows that it counts as the evolution of consciousness.

Just to sum up, we are certainly evolving in ability, and we are certainly evolving in knowledge and understanding. There are many examples of this. It is also true that most of us growth naturally in consciousness as we get older. The only thing I am unsure about is whether there have been permanent generational shifts in consciousness. Has the youngest generation been born more conscious than mine? Despite my uncertainty, I am more than happy to give evolution of consciousness the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is happening. In any event, doing what we can to increase our capacity to be conscious can only be for the good!

CT
29 July 2018

global change, Intelligence, Uncategorized

OUR FUTURE EVOLUTION

When we think of human evolution, we normally think of the past, the history of our evolution. And we may have in mind our evolutionary achievements, such as language, technology, manual dexterity, and the ability to self-reflect. But do we ever think about the future of our evolution? Or do we assume that human evolution has stopped? Given the state of the world today, we can be forgiven for thinking that we have stopped evolving, and that all that remains for us is to constantly try to solve the problems of our own making.

In fact, there is much evidence that we are still evolving, and that we may still have a long way to go. Although we like to think of ourselves as “top of the evolutionary tree”, humanity may still be in its infancy, in evolutionary terms. The evidence is that we are still evolving in five significant respects:

We are evolving physically, and this includes our health and longevity

We are evolving in consciousness and in knowing and understanding. Many of us are more conscious, and as a species we know and understand much more

We are evolving in intelligence – defined as “behaving wisely and well”. It often does not seem so, when we look around us or watch the news, but the overall trend is positive

We are evolving in character and maturity. This means many things, such as our ethics and morality. In practice, it means we are becoming kinder, stronger, more disciplined

We are evolving in ability, in two senses: we can do current things better; and we can do completely new things, including that considered by some to be “paranormal”

An important part of the evidence that we are still evolving is that large numbers of people are working on their own evolution (although they probably do not use this term). Under headings such as “personal development” or “therapy” or “spiritual practice, they are working on their health, their consciousness, their intelligence, their character, or their abilities – any or all of these.

Given the existential threats that just one species – ourselves – pose to this planet, there is clearly an urgent need for we human beings to evolve as much as possible, so that we can become what we are capable of being – wise and kind, with the will and capacity to care for each other and this planet as they are meant to be cared for. I hope that it goes without saying that this will involve work, much of it. That said, if you work regularly on yourself, you will almost certainly evolve. And as you evolve as an individual, humanity as a whole will somehow reflect your personal evolution.

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, natural, simplicity

FULLER AND FASTER

The world is fuller and faster. In fact, it’s more than that. The world is also noisier, busier and, by all accounts, more anxious.

The world is fuller, in the sense that there are more things in it, more things to do, and more of us. Just think of the word “shopping” and you will know what I mean. Never have we had so much choice, and never have we had so many pressures to acquire things.

The world is getting faster by the day. We can travel at speed, and we can communicate instantaneously with virtually anyone, anywhere. We have never experienced such speed and “instantness” before. We are not sure what to do with it.

The world is noisier. We say much more – on phones, email, texts, chat shows, and so many other ways. Much of this counts as noise, defined as “unwanted sound”. This is not all. Muzak is everywhere – in shops and shopping centres, and in trains and planes. To call this irritating is to be kind! And then there is the sound of traffic…and so on. We have made a very noisy world. Is this what we really want?

The world is busier – indeed people these days think being busy is a virtue! Many of us are constantly active, often doing more than one thing at a time…such as driving and texting and drinking coffee. If we are not actually doing something, we are probably planning the next activity. Sitting quietly, doing nothing has become so rare that people run courses in it under various banners, such as Zen and “mindfulness”.

And the world is more anxious, with good reason. The climate is changing dangerously. Sociopaths are in power. Inequality has reached Victorian levels. And there is no sign that we human beings have renounced war. Good cause indeed to be worried, and the anxiety is evident in many ways – retail therapy; “space-filling” activities, such as eating, drinking, sex and drugs; and the fact that we have become ludicrously risk-averse.

Need it be this way? Clearly not! One can easily envisage a world that is emptier, with more space, literally and metaphorically. It is slower, more leisurely. People are not rushing towards the end of their lives! They have time to stop and stare. It is a quieter, more peaceful world. People still talk, of course, and there is good music. But there is much less unwanted sound. It is a less busy world. People still do things, but they do fewer of them. They value the quality of what they do, rather than the quantity. And, yes, people are still anxious. That’s just part of being human. But I suspect that in an emptier, slower, quieter, less busy world, we would not have sociopaths in power, the climate would be in its natural state, gross inequality would be a thing of the past, and that we would use peaceful means to settle disputes. In short, we would be less anxious!

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, simplicity

JUST A PIECE OF STRING

In the Sixties, when Boeing produced the first Jumbo jets, the Federal Aviation Authority refused to grant a licence to carry passengers. Why? Because they required to know the weight of the plane. Boeing had spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to work out a way to weigh this unusually large aircraft, but without success.

As it happened, a visiting salesman heard about the problem, and said that he thought he could help. At first, he was not taken seriously. However, he insisted, so the engineers and executives thought they could lose nothing by letting him try. So, they asked him if he needed anything. He said: “Just a piece of strong, a measuring tape, and a tyre pressure gauge.” Needless, to say, there were a lot of raised eyebrows.

The salesman walked up to one of the planes sitting on the tarmac and did a few very simple things. First, he wound the string tightly around the base of a tyre, where it touched the ground. He then measured that length. He did this with several tyres, just to get an average. He then took the pressure of each of those tyres, again just to get an average. Next, he counted the total number of tyres. Finally, he did a quick calculation on a piece of paper and turned to Boeing’s and announced the weight of the plane. There were more than a few red faces, but Boeing got its licence, and the salesman got his contract!

This story is just one of countless examples of intelligent simplicity – where you do something that looks too simple, yet is very intelligent. In complete contrast to the very expensive, complicated, time-consuming methods that Boeing had tried, the salesman’s method cost nothing, took almost no time, and was the opposite of complicated. Yet it was far more intelligent, because it worked!