Global-Reset Events

Most of my friends know how to “reset” or “restart” a computer. They know that it wipes the short-term memory clean, but leaves the underlying machinery intact, and leaves intact work they have done, that they have saved a copy of.

Well, it turns out Gaia is capable of a comparable reset process, where her equivalent of short-term memory is electronic devices and many parts of the global electrical system.

This has been known at least since 1958 when a hundred planes suddenly lost radio contact with the ground, all at once.

The National Geographic Society is concerned enough about this that it publishes regularly on the topic, including a cover story in the June 2012 issue of the magazine. The text of that article can be found here, and the photos here.

My take on this, for those of us who are looking for a dramatic downsizing of Industrial Civilization’s environmental footprint is:

Here is a valuable parameter for what life on Earth needs to be like!

And this paramater is…? ? ?


Video still from NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Solar storms, the big ones.
They are one of the fundamentals of life here. Like oceans. And polar ice caps. One of the realities of Gaia –life on earth– is whether a lot of Earth’s water is solid and stored in ice caps at the poles, or whether it is mostly liquid and fills the oceans to overflowing. It makes a big difference to everything else that is going on, here on Earth.

Likewise, solar storms are a fact of Gaia’s life that cannot be argued with, successfully.

Some background. One of the characteristics of the sun is that it’s an electromagnetic dynamo, in addition to being the source of light and gravity. Gaia, our living earth, and humans, as a species, grew up knowing about Sun’s light. It is a given for us. Humans have been slower to understand Sun’s gravity. Of course we know how to use Earth’s gravity, as all animals do, jumping down from things, lying down to rest. And for as long as humans have lived near the sea, we have reckoned with the tides. But in terms of a cognitive understanding of what Sun’s gravity is, like how it creates Earth’s orbit, our understanding is only a few centuries old.

And similarly now, with the Sun’s electromagnetic pulses, we are just beginning to understand what we have been living with, since life on earth began. We have learned that the Sun is constantly storming. And that when the Sunstorm pulses surge out to impact Gaia that their blows are much softened by Earth’s magnetosphere, where the planet’s magnetic field interacts with the solar wind.

NASA artist's rendition of Earth's magnetosphere.  (Sun & Earth are actually MUCH further apart.)

NASA artist’s rendition of Earth’s magnetosphere.
(Sun & Earth are actually MUCH further apart.)

However, every few hundred years the magnetosphere is significantly less protection when one of Sun’s electromagnetic rumblings is more powerful than most: what we call “a solar super-storm.”

Storms on Earth have created the beaches and the arroyos. We love them and visit them often, but only the foolish try to live there. Solar storms give us auroras like the Northern Lights, which we love. Solar super-storms are powerful disrupters of our electrical grid, blowing out transformers, and our electronics, disabling GPS and short wave transmissions.

This is nothing new. The Sun has been storming like this since before Gaia was born. We animals have evolved, shaped by that reality. Solar pulses may affect human minds and bodies in ways we do not yet understand, but they appear not to harm us. Like beaches, Gaia has grown up shaped by this reality in ways deeper, more profound, than thought.

What is new is that humans now use electricity. National Geographic is telling us to be careful about building our technology into areas where there will be electromagnetic storm surges. We can fish in and enjoy the electromagnetic equivalent of salt marshes and beaches, but we shouldn’t try to live there. Of course we do build jetties and light houses right at the ocean’s waterline, but we know they need to be hardened to withstand storms. Similarly we know our satellites need to be hardened against the Sun’s pulses because they are less protected by the magnetosphere. But it’s expensive, and we haven’t been doing it here on land.

And why am I telling you all this?

You, who share with me a concern for human life and human culture?
You, who want humans to live within Gaia in ways that are much less destructive?
You, who have little expertise in magnetic fields, and little concern about them?

You and I have our instincts about what a good life looks like. We believe a good life has many supportive human relationships. Lots of face to face relationships which allow us to be open to the full humanity of others, especially those who are a bit different from ourselves. THAT kind of magnetism, we get. We have trouble talking to the engineer-types when they are talking about “the magnetosphere” and “critical failure ratios” and that kind of stuff.

I am sharing this with you because this is an area where we can talk to the engineering-types. Gaia’s regular system reset every few centuries favors the organic, local world of neighborhoods, because that’s what will be left after one of them. We who hold our particular vision of a better world are strengthened in our discussion with the technocrats by this detail of our evolutionary environment.

Do we create a world-wide database containing scans of everyone convicted of a misdemeanor, from middle school on?
Or do we develop community cultures of restorative justice where petty violators live in local cultures which know how to bring accused offenders to a circle of their neighbors, take extenuating circumstances into account, and sometimes reach an emotionally satisfying resolution for all concerned?

We can say, “Don’t put too much faith in that database; remember the system reset.” The centralized power folks and the total-information-awareness folks won’t like it when we say that, but the evidence presented by National Geographic and NASA and a bunch of other engineers speaks their language.

What about a global food system, shipping protein and carbohydrates from the locations where they are most economically produced?
Vs. a less-coordinated patchwork of local and regional systems, linked by shorter trade routes that allow low-fuel transport?

We’re going to feel safer with a food system less vulnerable to global system-reset.

Maybe a health system consisting of three Mayo Clinics on each continent or major landmass, linked to a system of level III trauma centers, linked to local hospitals, linked to clinics, midwives, etc. Each subsystem could survey the number of births expected to take place in the next 48 hours, and using standard ratios for the number of emergencies per 100 births calculate appropriate staffing levels up through the system for the next 24 hour period.

Hmm… so we have a system staffed with medical personnel who feel confident that they can call a helicopter if things go beyond their calibrated level of competence? And then “system reset?”

Or take myself, for example. A year ago I was really excited about “cloud computing.” (If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry.) I’m still excited, but now that I know about the effects of solar super-storms on our electrical infrastructure, I no longer see the internet as the “nervous system” of a future global society. I’m not sure what to think, what to hope for, but it’s clear it’s not that.

If you think this is important and want a dimmed-down copy of the June 2012 National Geographic cover story to carry around with you, I’ve posted an abbreviated version here.

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Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, is part of an association of change agents who have gathered together under the name “Pop Tech.” Andrew “curates” conferences which draw presenters from mostly-isolated “silos of excellence” together with knowledgeable audiences to foment resilient responses to the world’s challenges. Part of what comes out of the conferences are “Popcasts,” short videos on resilience I have found quite engaging. Most of his Popcast presenters would “pass” in the establishment mainstream. I take great hope in the fact that the U.S. mainstream has a group of people who are looking at “The Great Disruption” and trying to get smart about responding to the major systems changes.

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Or Terrified Beyond Words?

I feel good about what I wrote in the first six posts of this year.

And then I stopped.

I feel good about that, too.
My emotional life, my intellectual understanding, are part of a larger flow of many, many things, including Quaker memorial services and weddings, and earning a living.

I do not feel I am called to a linear predictability and progress.
am called to a larger pattern.

Here’s a poem I wrote almost 30 years ago that I “just happened” to find today.


Why do I speak of Gaia?

Who can say?
One reason:

And mine,
If I will give myself to it.
But I am frightened.

George Lock Land
Called it “information fit.”
That’s easier to bear
For an agnostic-born.

Had his church, his Christ.
He grew up
He was floating on the bosom of Love
So it was easier for him.

I am terrified.
It’s like being eaten
To know
The strands of my life
Those woven, and those still loose,
Are oriented
In ways beyond my ken.

And yet
In 1976
When I fell
From the web
Of my life’s weaving
I fell
With a sense of rightness
A sense of orientation.

In the darkness
Of my personal confusion
I felt clearly,
The coördinates of a larger grid.
I knew
This darkness
Is held
Something larger
Than I knew.


For years
And yet,

Even as I wove
I felt
By Knowing
Ever more deeply
of a larger grid.

Of intent?

I choose
Within a context
Too dynamic to be called a grid.

I choose,
And feel
A response,
Subtly woven
Into the consequences.
I am led
I am brought up short
I learn
What I already knew
I know

Within the Tao

R.O.F. 10/14/1983

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Synchronicity, Serendipity, Epiphany & Apophenia

I started my March 30 post with the familiar ironic trope, “just a coincidence…”

There, the reader could believe that I think it is more than a coincidence, while not needing to take a position herself. Now I want to address some of the embedded issues more directly. And have some word-play.

In my early March posts I maintained that going into my fear was important for me to do. I suggested it might be important for some (but not all) of you to do that as well. I claimed a good bath in one’s fear would likely lead to more freedom and flexibility afterwards. I said

Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

But my ironic use of the word “coincidence” suggests that I believe if we are willing to enter the darkness of our un-admitted fears, something bigger than just personal empowerment might be accessed.

Others might say my discovery of Stephen Jenkinson’s OrphanWisdom website was “serendipitous.” “Serendipity” means “a fortunate set of circumstances. An unplanned-for lucky event.” We’re talking “chance” here, “coincidence.” Good luck, without any greater significance than that.

Where others might say “Serendipitous,” I’ll say “an example of synchronicity.”
Speaking of the inventor of the word, Wikipedia says

Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order…

I, too, am transfixed by this idea. It is the foundation of this website, and I press this idea upon you, my readers, as we face The Great Disruption that Paul Gilding sees ahead.

A deeper order…

Yes! Traditional cultures the world over have recognized this. Unfortunately, Industrial Civilization has lost track of this aspect of reality. My message is that, as we enter fully into the Great Disruption, we can look to the deeper order for guidance. Meditation, Experiment with Light, the I Ching, Quaker meetings for worship, these are ways I have found to be in touch with, and receive guidance from, a deeper order of things. I know many people who have found other ways, as well. Flammarion captionThe experience of “epiphany” is well documented. Suddenly an ongoing mystery or confusion is illuminated and one’s understanding is enlarged. “Was blind but now I see…” I believe we can expect and rely on this guidance.*

We need to talk about this.
If there is a deeper order
–call it “God’s will,” whatever– then surely we need to attend to it as we remake our culture.

But is this idea of a deeper order a wishful fantasy? Can we only hope for serendipity but not trust in synchronicity? Skeptics, those who see randomness in evolution and in all aspects of human life, say the experience of meaningful connection is a trick of the human imagination. Where I say “epiphany,” they say “apophenia,” the experience of meaningful connection where none exists.

I want to take this argument seriously, rather than dismissing it. I think they have a point. I personally have put myself in a frame of mind where I could see faces and figures in the shapes of clouds. And I have pointed them out to friends who could see what I was referring to. I personally have had encounters with paranoia, especially in others, where Fred (say) felt a haunting sense danger, saw evil intent in every whispered remark. Fred has a clear experience of meaning. It is obvious to me that much of Fred’s experience is not related to any reality he and I share. OK, in my life, I have a clear experience of meaning. How can I trust my sense any more than I trust Fred’s? And to make it murkier, there are many examples of a gray area of artistic genius and mental instability.

* The suicide cult phenomenon
* groups with such a strong sense of shared meaning that they gather at a specified time to await the rapture
* beliefs that cataclysmic events would occur around 21 December 2012

How can I dismiss these examples of our apophenia and still take seriously “guidance” that comes to me or others?
If I believe in an invisible world underlying the material world, and
I believe it is possible to receive guidance from invisible influences,
how do I think we can distinguish between these numinous meanings, these leadings, and paranoid fantasies?
“Humility,” for starters.
And testing one’s leadings in the context of the group.

Friends, we do need to guard against creating “castles in the air.”
We need to guard against the powerful human tendency to create meanings disconnected from the larger realities of our biosphere. But isn’t that what we’ve got right now, in this endgame of industrial civilization? A shared construction of “reality” which is profoundly disconnected from the larger truths on which our lives are built?

This will not be easy, friends, but I offer to you, as an article of faith: we are individual expressions of a divine reality. If, in community and humility, we resolve to create a human world more in harmony with our overall Gaian reality than our current one is, it can be done.


* Patrick Curry has written a written a book on divination, his word for seeking and receiving guidance. It’s beyond my reach for a couple of reasons, but some pages of it lie behind the “preview”  button at: Divination: Perspectives for a New Millennium

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Stephen Jenkinson on Our Dying Culture, pt. 2 & 3

Paul GildingSo this is my journey, at this point.

Paul Gilding has inspired me not to feel marginalized. Not to slink around as if I was carrying a bunch of crazy ideas, rather than having a partial grasp of what will soon be obvious to most of us. Paul is concerned about the planetary ecosystem, but is focused on the global economy as being the most vulnerable part of that system. The part that, when it breaks, will move us out of our torpor and onto a “wartime footing.”

Stephen Jenkinson also cares about the global environment, but he is focused on the daily culture of our lives, and inspires me to refocus on that myself. Stephen-Jenkinson-450x249
We agree Industrial Civilization has gotten us into crazy situation. I believe that is partially because
when Science talked mainstream culture out of believing in heaven and hell,

it offered us no emotionally-satisfying mythic story,
leaving us, as a culture, terrified of death.

The overall mission of my website, my overall message, is to offer our emerging culture an emotionally-reassuring vision of our place in the larger scheme of things. I need this, and am gratified to have it. It helps me to accept my approaching death, and the death of Industrial Civilization. Like Stephen, I believe that community is the basic unit of human life, not the individual. Alone or separated we are undernourished and inadequate. Working with those we know well –whether we actually like them or not– our lives have meaning and we can love life, even in challenging circumstances.

In my previous post I presented some of Stephen Jenkinson’s thinking in his own voice. That may have been enough for you, dear reader, in which case you can skip over listening to the final two segments. They add richness, but you already have the flavor.

Part 2 of my edit of Stephen Jenkinson’s interview, focusing on our response to our dying culture. Nine minutes.

  • Parenting from beyond the grave [as a model for living during cultural breakdown] a challenge to live into and accept the pain of our situation. To really understand what we had and what we are losing.
    • Asking that your kids pay close attention to what is happening
  • Practicing the skill of being human
  • The Irish potato famine as an example of a dying culture
  • “Learning” the dying of a failed culture
  • Accepting your too-short life and making the most of it, not trying to “preserve”
  • What could bring our full humanity to the surface for more than just a few of us?
    • Stephen’s answer: a rite of passage into adulthood at puberty
  • The sad consequences of not getting a clear end to childhood

Jenkinson Pt 2 

Part 3 of my edit. Eleven minutes

  • Here’s a frame of mind to hold for the times ahead:
    • I am here because I am needed to help the culture die well. That’s the redemptive vision.
  • Not having children in these times.
  • Human beings should be in the business of making culture
  • Everything that dies is life-giving
  • A new culture can only grow out of the decomposed elements of the old
  • Being an elder, learning to be an elder
    • Not retiring to “safe” communities
  • What does it take to fall in love with being alive
    • Once you realize your life isn’t going to last…then you have the chance…
    • Italian weddings and Irish funerals
    • The twins of sadness and loving-being-alive
  • Grief is a learned thing [we need to learn it well]
  • We just might be fine.

 Jenkinson Pt 3

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Feeling Fear Frees Me, Opens Me Up

Just a coincidence, right, that as I opened myself to the flow of my fear a new friend happened to mention the website

Stephen Jenkinson has a profound critique of our culture and a vision for some of the elements a “sane” culture needs to have. This Canadian “white guy” worked for years in “the death trade” in hospitals with repeated experiences of how crazy our culture is about dying. He has also gained much from Native American traditions. He brings these learnings into a way of teaching based on his “redemptive vision.”

I am moved, thrilled. Stephen is talking about culture, the big picture stuff. Stephen-Jenkinson-Photo-by-Ian-Mackenzie-450x299He thinks he can see where we need to go! He has focused his life on restoring “village culture,” which holds living and dying in a wholesome way, in the bosoms of all concerned.

His style is not my style. I may never learn to tan hides. Still, he refreshes my faith that we CAN find a way through our current mess, learning some crucial lessons about humanity in the process. And he inspires me with his grasp of the fundamentals of human existence. Him being right or wrong is not the point. His work is a wonderful example of looking fear in the eye, feeling the rush of adrenalin, and working toward the good of the whole as it may manifest in new times. And I know in my very soul that he is on to some really important stuff.

Naturally, I am particularly interested to hear what he has to say about The Great Disruption of Industrial Civilization. On the website I found an interview with a couple of younger guys from The “” The interview is over two hours long and covers much of what Stephen is thinking about. I have excerpted his statements  about our planetary situation, which he summarizes as “our culture is dying.” This first segment is 11 minutes long. The first three minutes are context, his work with the dying, his manner and his relation to the interviewers. Then,

  • “If the culture is dying, then what is asked of you?
  • “…your responsibility is to learn things you never wanted to know anything about.
  • “…it’s not a great achievement to be fearful in fearful times.
  • “…you’ve got to ask more of yourself than the circumstances would ask of you…
  • “[not]…start thinking about #1…I’m not gonna do it…
  • ” The sanest response is to make as much humanity as you can, while you are still able…
  • “The death of the culture doesn’t coincide with your personal death…

Stephen Jenkinson Interview, excerpt 1

I recommend this segment as an adequate introduction to what I find important in Stephen’s message at this point. If you have time and interest for more, the next post has it.

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The Scream

Paul Gilding breaks our Great Disruption into three stages. The first he names The Scream, partly because of the shrill tone sounded by environmentalists and whole-planet-systems theorists, and partly in honor of Edvard Munch’s portrait,  Der Schrei der Natur (The ScreamThe_Scream of Nature).

Paul places the beginning of THE SCREAM period in the late 1950s, solidified by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in 1962. It runs through today, and will end with THE CRASH, which Paul expects to arrive shortly.

I found myself surprised that Paul named our current period The Scream, and then surprised that I was surprised. An interesting ambiguity. Revealing, I think.

I ask myself, “Richard, don’t you think ‘The Scream’ is an apt name for this period? Haven’t you been in a state of terror?”


It’s a regular part of the human experience that in dreadful moments, like being abused as a child –but at many other times as well– we separate off a part of ourselves. We dis-associate our regular lives, where we are happy to see old acquaintances and other ordinary events, from the traumatic experience.

Yes, I was alarmed when first really got the significance of

And that alarm deepened to a state of panic on each occasion, when I

  • went to hearings
  • teach-ins
  • wrote letters to the authorities
  • went to demonstrations
  • published my newsletter
  • watched huge mobilizations I was not a part of

and nothing happened. Not really. Nothing happened that seemed anywhere commensurate with the seriousness of the situation.

  • Was it me? Was I being “hysterical?”
  • Was it “them?” Were my most paranoid acquaintances right: the world is run by rich and violent men who control all aspects of our lives, and hide that truth from us?
  • Were the demonstrations I participated in “allowed” because they were ineffective?
  • How could I really be effective?
  • Would I become a target if I was?

Does “The Scream” apply to me, and those I worked with? Yes.
Does it apply to my sister, who never did any of these things, but followed my life from the relatively safe vantage point of small-town mom?
Well, we’d have to say her’s was a Silent Scream.
And looking back from now, my Scream seems silent too.

Panic. Dread. Shouting into a vast silence of profoundly inadequate response.


I’m in trouble.
“Maybe it’s me, with a dangerously warped sense of urgency. Maybe it’s ‘them,’ controlling my life by whatever means necessary. Maybe it’s us, dumbed by an oil addiction, or simply biologically incapable of connecting the knowledge in our frontal cortex with the action centers of our brain.”

Bad trouble, for whatever reason, or combination of them.

And a trouble so quiet that when I saw Paul Gilding label the last 50 years as “THE SCREAM,” I asked myself


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