How to climb a 3,000 foot vertical cliff without ropes

The story Alex tells is one of mastering fear through repetition and practice and memorization, more than learning mind-control techniques to avoid panic.


A Deaf Musician Teaches us to Listen

Listening with the whole body is a skill that Evelyn Glennie had to learn when she was a talented 12-year-old musician who lost her hearing.

Now, as a sensitive performer and talented composer, she teaches us how to listen—something she’s had to work hard at.

“Use your body as a resonating chamber”

Composing music is so much easier than performing—even Beethoven could do it!

Eulogy for a Talking Gorilla

Koko the signing gorilla died last spring at the age of 46. She had a rough childhood, and was fostered by Francine (Penny) Patterson, who taught her sign language. Scientists who are skeptical about animal communications say we are over-interpreting his language, but to those who knew Koko best (including Robin Williams), Koko offered a window into the life experience and even the metaphysics of another kind of creature.Patterson got the idea originally from Koko. Koko taught Patterson her own sign language, already acquired in his childhood from other gorillas in the San Francisco Zoo. Patterson was impressed, and decided to continue and deepen the communication between them.  Patterson was a grad student when she was assigned to care for Koko. Koko became her career for the next 46 years.

Koko had an active vocabulary of about 2,000 words, comparable to a kindergartener. Like a child, Koko had a far larger passive vocabulary, and we can only guess how much she understood. Patterson habitually talked to her in ordinary English, and reported that she understood the gist of most English language conversations around her, though she lacked the mouth parts to speak herself.

Koko called herself “Queen”, picking up the word from occasional usage in her presence. She loved cats and nagged her owner for a pet. She kept a pet kitten for just a few months before it was run over by a car, and then mourned her pet’s death as we might.

Koko learned to play the recorder, and anticipated her birthday each year. Her best friend was Michael, another gorilla, who was orphaned in the wild when poachers cruelly murdered his mother. Michael used sign to bear witness to this crime. Michael had nightmares from PTSD, and he told Koko about them.

Koko had a lot to tell humans, but she did so on her own schedule, and didn’t respond well to interrogation. She did respond to attention with a penetrating gaze from the window of her gorilla soul.

Atlantic article by Roc Morin from 3 years ago
Grunge article this week by Debra Kelly


The best we can say is that it beats not learning

leapoffaithNo, that is not hyperbole. Learning is that demanding, and its calamity visits in direct proportion to the body of knowledge that holds sway.…The programs of certainty are an assault on mystery, bringing mystery to heel, training it to pee in the box in the corner. Learning is something like a counterintuitive willingness to be mystified, to be on the receiving end of a world that, in its dignified manner, does not give itself away, or succumb, or dissolve into its constituent parts. Learning is the case you make for mystery, and ambivalence is the courtesy learning extends to what it would romance.

Learning is savagely, unjustifiably expensive. It ravages your prior life. It opens the box where everything once called dangerous or useless was placed long ago, and it mixes them up, switches the labels, makes it harder than ever to tell the difference and be sure. Learning is ruthlessly proceeding without recourse to your readiness to learn or to proceed otherwise, without preventing consequence or considering it first. Not learning, alas, is more expensive yet.

Getting yourself out of the equation will help, and placing the emphasis on learning instead of on feeling better about imprecision will help, too. Learning rarely starts with an intent to learn. It can start with an almost aimless willingness to stop what you were doing.  What you were doing was living in the house—the citadel—of what you knew to be so.…The beginning is not to come back home for awhile. Just go out of the house, the holding cell of certainty and conviction, and consider that outside a legitimate place to be.

Lost in the woods 2“But behind me is every true and noble thing. It’s madness, it’s irresponsible to leave it.” You could believe that. Behind you is certainty, where you’ll find every familiar thing. The handle of the door is an angel you wrestle. Exhausted by the work and driven near to madness because there’s still a handle and a door after all that, you let go of it and lurch through. Whether in that moment you believe this, or believe anything, you lurch through, and it is done. That’s crisis for you: going outside. That’s the old meaning of ecstasy. Not “thrill”, nor “joy”. It meant “going out from what prevails”.

— Stephen Jenkinson, from Come of Age

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks out the door, and keeps walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings upon him
as if he were dead.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly

Artwork by JMS Mani, Landscape with view towards a distant Church, Made of oil on board

JMS Mani

When will Science be Freed from Dogmatism?

The “science delusion” is the belief that science has already understood the nature of reality in principle, leaving only details to be filled in.  This is widely believed in our society.  People think that they already know what is real, and they cite scientific authority as unquestioned truth.

There’s a conflict at the heart of science, between science as a method of inquiry, and the current beliefs of the Science Establishment.  The scientific method is the testing of hypotheses, looking at the evidence with an open mind, subject to correction. This is what science ought to be.  But for many professional scientists, science has become a belief system, a world-view, sometimes called “scientism”.  The mechanical view of nature which was so successful in the 19th century and which is the basis of so much technology today is ensconced as a fixed belief system, and those who question it are derided and ostracized—

This despite the fact that quantum mechanics, at the very foundation of science, is explicitly holistic and relational.  There can be no objective reality in quantum mechanics, and every event is co-created by the underlying material world and its conscious observer.

A great number of mental phenomena have been carefully documented—telepathy, precognition, out-of-body experiences, what Liz Mayer called Extraordinary Knowing.  These are entirely consistent with what quantum mechanics tells us is the fundamental nature of reality; and yet experimental findings of these extra-mechanical mental capacities are routinely dismissed by the mainstream of science as though they were impossible.

The mechanistic world-view and reductionist methods have become a quasi-religious belief system.  This dogmatism is holding science back.


Painting self-destructs

Banksy is a British street artist who prefers to remain anonymous and to thumb his nose at the art establishment, though he has become quite a sensation.

Banksy Girl With Balloon Signed Print

Last week, his most famous painting sold for $1.4 M at a Sotheby’s auction.  Somehow, the painting figured out what was happening to it, and it launched into its own protest, committing suicide before the astonished eyes of auctioner and auctionee.

The painting shredded itself.  The buyer decided to go ahead with the purchase anyway.

Can you be as contented with life as your cat?

Nearly all stress experienced by humans living in industrialized societies is a response to imaginary abstract concepts, not actual existential threats to their biology. The existential threats we do perceive are almost entirely illusory fabrications placed in our minds by the plutocrat-owned media in order to manipulate our thinking, buying, voting and behavior, like the notion that terrorists or Russians or Republicans/Democrats are going to destroy us any minute now.

So here we are, living in a world wherein we are surrounded not by threats with sharp teeth and claws, but imaginary threats made entirely of abstract concepts. And what do we do to find safety in that sea of imaginary abstract conceptual threats? We try to use thinking to protect ourselves, which is kind of like trying to dry off using a fire hose while immersed underwater.

And that’s really what we all want, deep down. We want to just be, the way every single other animal on this earth is able to just be. That’s all we’re ever seeking when we get sucked up into various kinds of addictions, when we fixate on the pursuit of fame or fortune, when we strive to win the approval of our fellow humans, when we scheme to get ahead, when we throw all that away in desperation and devote our lives to religion or spirituality. We’re ultimately just trying to get to some point where we can feel okay in these hairless ape bodies and relax and enjoy this breathtakingly beautiful planet of ours instead of being tormented by compulsive mental machinations. We’re just trying to be.

Isn’t it weird to think that we can spend our entire lives working our butts off in the hope that one day we will have secured enough resources/ideas/approval/whatever to finally convince our brains that we are safe enough to enjoy a few moments of being before we die?

The old mental habits will keep churning for a while like the blades of a ceiling fan that has been switched off, but if you keep returning to the simple beingness of your own cells those habits will fall away, and you’ll be able to sit in your own presence like all the other organisms in the animal kingdom can.

Read the rest, from Caitlin Johnstone