What is the relationship between transforming ourselves and transforming the world?
In my previous essay, I described seven forms of leverage for deep transformation. When I wrote it, I was thinking of social transformation. The seven forms of leverage, in increasing potency, were:
1. Ameliorate the pain
2. Slow the damage.
3. Create alternatives.
4. Catalyze connections.
5. Understand the big picture.
6. Change the story.
7. Transform the systems.
Hearing this list, a close colleague was surprised that I did not include personal transformation. His view comes close to two related views held by many transformational agents: (1) Social change cannot be adequate without serious efforts by change agents to transform themselves and (2) transformation of individual consciousness is a (if not the) primary driver of systemic transformation.
I agree that both these dynamics are important and helpful, but I consider neither essential for social transformation. Nor do I see them as distinct forms of transformational leverage.
The Tree of Life may be the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (or not); in his film called “The Tree of Life,” Terence Malick plays with the universals – grace and nature parallel good and evil. Nature is will, ego; grace is nurturing. The film’s narrative plays out in Waco, Texas and in the vast cosmos, infinite space and time, surrounding it; it places one very human story in a vast transhuman context. In one primeval scene, one dinosaur, a predator, chooses not to kill and consume another… this establishes grace as something that precedes the human; I think the point is that nature and grace always coexisted, and always will, and grace seeps into nature. “Good” and “evil” are complex and intertwingled.
I thought the film was magnificent; in it I saw scenes familiar from my own life growing up in a Texas town in the 50s and 60s, though I wasn’t in that family, and I was far more innocent. And Malick’s family has no television set in the living room… imagine what a difference that would make.
The vision of the “tree of life” represents a sense that all life on earth is related… and there’s a tree of life web project that shows that connectedness. The planet is teeming with life, but all species are endangered by the actions and operations of one – is this nature acting without grace? Last night Oliver Markley spoke to the Central Texas World Future Society on the subject of risk and resilience – is civilization at a tipping point toward collapse?
Each week, on a Friday, Alexander Cockburn publishes a weekly diary in the weekend edition of Counterpunch, which he co-edits with Jeffrey St. Claire. Last week’s diary included a particularly important entry that expands on earlier CP essay analyzing the possibility of increased infant deaths in the western US resulting from the poisons spewed out by the multiple meltdowns in the Fukushima nuclear power facility in Japan.
Cockburn enlisted Pierre Sprey, a recognized expert in the proper use of nonparametric statistics to extract unbiased information out limited but important data samples, to examine the data/analysis in the original CP essay and to expand or critique the analysis, if possible. (caveat: Pierre is a close friend of mine)
Attached below is Cockburn’s summary of Pierre’s findings … it makes for very important reading for two reasons: it is a good discussion of the limits implicit in in quality statistical analysis, and it is a sobering discussion of a danger that has receded from the public consciousness.
Last weekend on this site we ran a piece by Dr. Janet Sherman and Joseph Mangano, reviewing some recent figures from the Center for Disease Control: here’s how they interpreted the data in the context of the disaster at Fukushima on March 11, 2011:
“The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:
“4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 – 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 – 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week).
“This amounts to an increase of 35 per cent (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3 per cent ), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster…