There are physicists and astronomers and theologians who ask about the beginning of the universe.
There are biologists who ask about the beginning of life.
There are philosophers, mythologists and theologians who ask why we exist, what our purpose is.
Myths have, historically, and prehistorically given us answers to most of these questions. Many myths have become accepted facts-- accepted articles of faith for many, many cultures. Challenge the reality of the myth that a culture has embraced, as Galileo did, for example, and you could be killed. Once a myth takes hold, once a belief solidifies and hardens, like a sclerotic blood vessel, imagination, challenges, creative questioning may be banished or disappear and visionary, intellectual vigor and vivacity seize up and die, like sclerotic blood vessels cause heart attacks.
We expect to see mythic thinking, beliefs in sky or earth or water gods among indigenous tribal people.
But we have some of those sclerotic regions of rigidified thinking in our first world cultures. No, I'm not talking about Islamic or Christian or Jewish fundamentalists. I'm talking about how most people accept as a given the kind of governmental, political, economic, educational and health systems we live in and with. People treat them as they are the only way. They cite people like Churchill who said, "'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
I'm sure there are thousands, maybe millions of examples of people extolling the "Bestness" of one form of something... until a better form came along. Except better things don't come along.
People raise questions. They criticize the existing things and systems. They speak out about what aspects could be better. They challenge the status quo and challenge it some more. They take risks. Sometimes they die, or, more often, are killed. Some people fail. But eventually, and this has happened at least hundreds of thousands of times, improvements are made.
There are people who make their mark in the world by making incremental changes-- a better widget-- and doing that can make a person fabulously wealthy. I had a friend who lived for fifty years off of a patent he'd registered for an improvement in electrical power transformers.
But very often the people who ask the big questions, or even those who are involved in providing the big solutions, do not reap the big benefits. A review of the founders of the Uniteds States-- the signers of the Declaration of Independence shows that most of them died without great wealth, some even in dire straits. They were rewarded in other ways.
So, I've tried to ask big questions in my life, tried to find blind spots that have been ignored. My first involved biofeedback-- I saw a technology that could help people within 10-40 hours of training, with some practice in between, develop skills and abilities that it took yogis, Buddhist monks and Himalayan gurus years, even decades to develop. I dived into it, working with a physician, helping patients, then inventing a product
with over 500,000 sold, then developing software used at major universities and by the military for healing stress and pain patients.
I co-authored a relaxation/stress management tape (over 25,000 sold) that gave me an insight. I saw how the heartwarming experience could heal the body-- that just thinking about it could calm all of a person's physiological systems. That got me asking about the idea of positive psychology-- back in 1981 and 82, before the current field existed (I own the website positivepsychology.net
). How much can you help a person to heal herself by teaching positive skills so she could move towards optimal wellness and health, rather than diagnosing and focusing on pathology, and fixing a person? It led me to explore the anatomy of positive experience-- and to conclude the positive experiences are the building blocks upon which the abilities to be happy, to love, to face adversity and challenges are built. To have these abilities you must master the art of positive experiences, and I put together a model-- the anatomy of positive experience-- that I've presented at the US and Canadian Positive Psychology national organizations. In early 1996 I organized the first conference on Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology, which I ran until 2007
, when I stopped running conferences and went full time with Opednews.
Twenty some years into my work in the field of biofeedback, in 1993 seeing that what I thought was a very exciting aspect of biofeedback, neurofeedback, or EEG, brain biofeedback, had somewhat plateaued, with a handful of people teaching introductory workshops, I hit on the idea of getting the teachers of the introductory courses to come together in a takeoff of the kind of intellectual salon that Gertrude Stein held in Paris and members of the Algonquin Roundtable held in New York City-- where thought leaders could come together and converse-- while newcomers to the field could listen. The rules were-- you didn't have to start with the basics and you should stretch yourself, stretch the envelope, find new edges-- whatever it was you were presenting on. Eventually, the first conference on the brain and consciousness -- The Winter Brain Meeting
-- was expanded to include the conference on Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology, and then, in 2002, I founded and organized the Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story
, as I describe below.
Founding Storycon: A bit more than fifteen years ago an encounter with Robert McKee's brilliant book, Story Structure, and then his famous workshop (the movie Adaptation, with Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep, was based in part on his workshops) inspired me to take a look at the world of story. I learned about Joseph Campbell's book, Hero With a Thousand Faces, which explores the Hero's Journey, and really got a clear idea of it with Chris Vogler's book, The Writer's Journey. That got me thinking about heroes and I started asking people about who their heroes were. (Who are your living heroes?) This dive into the world of story made me realize that story is, next to energy/transportation and finance, the biggest business in the world. It includes, in addition to books, movies, games, newspapers, magazines and Television, politics, religion, science, history, marketing, psychology and psychotherapy, medicine, it defines who we are, what our cultures are-- so I began asking experts in all these fields if there had ever been a conference that brought all the different worlds of story together. It became clear that no-one had ever put such an event together. So I did it, adding it on before the start of my two other conferences. Seeing the full world, the big picture of the extent and depth and power of story was enlightening and very exciting.
Between the coronation of George Bush by the Supreme court, the horrible laws enacted after 911-- basically giving Bin Laden the victory he sought-- and giving neo-cons the imperialist nation they wanted the US to be, and the insane lies of WMDs that brought the US into war in Iraq, I started feeling that my lifelong work at waking people up by offering the consciousness raising technologies of biofeedback was moving too slowly. I started Opednews because I felt that the new online media had the potential to reach a lot more people.
evolved I became aware of the powers of bottom-up approaches. That got me thinking about the roots of top-down culture, thinking and patterns of being and doing-- civilization, patriarchy, hierarchy, domination, alienation, disconnection, feudalism, massive inequality. I looked to pre-civilization, pre-historic times, and to indigenous tribal cultures to see the way people lived outside of civilization, hierarchy, centralization and inequality. Robert Wolff'
s brilliant book was a real inspiration in that regard. Please read it. At the same time, some of my experiences with trolls on and off the site inspired me to look into sociopathy, psychopathy and narcissism. It didn't take long to see ties between patriarchy, top-down hierarchy, domination and psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. Around the same time I started looking at big and small-- particularly inspired by Schumacher's book, Small is Beautiful. That fed into my growing belief that billionaires and people of extreme wealth are, overall, not good for the planet or humanity (even though there are some who are benign, even good people) because they wield too much power.
Lately I've been thinking, through my radio show and writings about bottom-up and top-down, about civilization-- was it a wrong turn? How does it need to be overhauled. Ten years ago, Opednews was released as a PHP MYSQL database-- a total revamp of the original site which was built using Microsoft's Front Page web site building software. Over the years we've been adding to and perhaps more important, totally re-writing the code for the site-- code technology and coders get better. Maybe... no... DEFINITELY... we need to do the same thing with the biggest aspects of our culture-- civilization, economics, constitutions (consider this a shout-out to article fivers.) I mean, seriously. Up to forty years ago the US constitution was looked to for inspiration. But not any more. There are countries with better, smarter, more just constitutions.
I've always loved the story of the blind wise ones. They were put in a room and each touched a different part of what was in the room.
One said, "it's a rug."
Another said "it's a a rope"
Another guessed, "it's a tree trunk."
One of the others said, "It's a hose."
Another guessed "It's a water bag."
And finally, another guessed, "it's a spike."
Each, blind to the whole story, used the information he or she had to guess what it was. Between them, they figured out what it really was. Scroll down below to see.
I am certain that the answers we need either have not yet been found, or the people asking the right questions haven't received the attention they deserve. We need to ask a lot of questions so we can together, see the elephants in the room that no-one is seeing.
We need more people asking big questions, the kinds of questions that get you called crazy or weird. We need to teach our kids that asking questions is not only smart and important, it's a civic responsibility, and not disrespect for authority. We need to make it clear that authoritarian figures who attack people who ask questions are a**holes and un-American. And that includes police who expect citizens to be unquestioning when they act like power-mad dictators.
We need to develop conversations around developing a climate where asking big questions is supportive, nourishing, nurturing and encouraging. Please consider the space here at OpEdNews to be that kind of place. We want to see you visions and ideas about possibilities and solutions. We'd like to see commenters encouraging big thinking, but critiquing is also okay. If you get too negative, other commenters will rein you in.
I've made a life of being an awakener
, detecting blind-spots, what are some blind spots you've noticed? What are some big questions you're asking. What are changes that people might think you are crazy for suggesting?
If those questions you conceive aren't asked, if those ideas aren't broached, how will they ever find their way to being implanted in our cultural womb and brought full term to life? Take some risks, be willing to be called crazy. Think of the people throughout history who also took those risks. Join them.