Blog of Six Billion Voices
(Now Open)        
Where Cultures Meet!
   Sign up for our newsletter! 
 Enter Email Address:
Trade Promotions      Marketplace
 Re-Patterning Global Warming
  Education   |   Presentation   |   Workshop   |   Events   |   Event Archives   |   Slave Trade's Bicentenary    |   Klub Remote
  Caravan   |   Cultural Diversity   |   Re-Patterning Global Warming   |   Africa Day Celebration

Dr. Vivian Darroch-Lozowski

Paper now published: Reference: The Environmentalist, issue 26, No. 3, September 2006, pp. 195-200 and re-published in the March 2007 issue of The CCPA  Monitor (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

 I am a prairie child. For decades I have lived in a city with millions of people. And, like all of us, I am an inhabitant of the earth. The most crucial fact about the earth is that she is dying. And this dying is now.  The increasing temperatures of global warming are deadly for all beings whatever their phylum and species. In my reflections in this essay on global warming I will point to the corresponding knowledge that we have from science and from spirituality. Then I will introduce ideas of shared resonance among beings and suggest how the re-patterning of global warming might happen.

All over the world I have witnessed signs of global warming. I have held the hand of a religious statue, his features slowly blowing away in the hot wind of a high Himalayan desert. Villagers, standing nearby me, wait in vain for the water-run from a small glacier that had almost disappeared. I have held the hand of a woman walking a red dry field in Africa carrying an entire village on her back. She is trying to find a root, or a well.

 I’ve walked over small stones along an Antarctica shore where, before the year of my visit, thick ice had covered them for millennia. I’ve looked into the eyes of dying whales, and the eyes of thin, exhausted polar bears suffering in the warm steam rising from melting tundra.
For months at a time, now and then, I’ve lived in countries in Asia where I could not see the sky because the clouds of pollution are so thick. I have flown in a plane through the smoke of the Amazon’s burning rainforests. On my own continent (North America), the birds everywhere that I knew as a child are gone. In my own city (Toronto), my eyes are scratched and my throat closes from polluted heat.

You, the reader of my writing, from your experiences would know of and, perhaps, directly have familiarity with our global warming hardships---their infections and floods and droughts and fires, the thirst, hunger and the social violence and blindness that arrive in the wake of these.

This essay was precipitated by a public question raised by Resurgence, a periodical recording ideas in ecology, art and culture.  “Can Spiritual Values Combat Global Warming?” the question asked. I was enticed by the question because a topic of spiritual values in relation with global warming points toward an important subject matter. However, for two reasons I was uneasy in my thought with how the question was phrased. My primary concern was around something implicit in the question, which is that spiritual values are outside the general physical web of nature and even are separate from our own physical natures as humans. Further, the question’s verb ‘combat’ called up an unfortunate spectre of war between spiritual values and what we, humanity, have affected upon nature while most of us are espousing and practicing at least some spiritual values. Using this verb, the Resurgence question as it is was phrased splits spirituality away from the material phenomenon of global warming.

My second concern related to the question’s implicit presupposition that spiritual values are a practical source to address the problems of global warming. I am uncomfortable with such an instrumental ‘use’ of spiritual values. This concern stimulated me to try and answer the question from within a different interpretive understanding of spiritual values, but which yet retains the interest of addressing the world with spiritual questions. However, I especially note that in writing what is below I do not desert social and environmental activisms. These are crucial for our times ahead.

To begin, climate researchers rightly conclude that our climate change is largely caused by our burning of fossil fuels. The flames of burning fossil fuels are a potent symbolic image for the energy consumption required by human activity and development. How we, collectively or individually, use our energy on behalf of humanity’s self-preservation and the bettering of ourselves as creative and useful individuals is vital. Moreover, the symbols of flames are not merely practical. In all religions they generate, illuminate and transform life. Yet at-large we are becoming more and more aware that something is not right with the ‘flames’ that are around us.

What is around us? Global warming is around us. And the spiritual world is around us. However, we forget or, perhaps, we never have comprehended that the spiritual world is limitless, its reality subsuming our physical and metaphysical dimensions. Therefore, the spiritual world includes global warming and all the harmful, violent dimensions of nature and us. If spiritual values can and are to influence global warming we must change our thinking away from considering the ‘how’ of a transcendental spiritual agency toward recognizing that it is possible for us to think and act upon issues from within the absolute inclusive source of the spiritual world, which itself is a source of global warming. This way of thinking would be different from thinking ‘spiritually’ and then ‘applying’ spiritual values to the physical world.

 In other words, I want to explore how global warming may be affected not by spiritual values per se, but rather by what for the moment I will describe as an attention to resonance. Our resonance with things around us is a source of spirituality and attention to resonance is a source of spiritual knowledge. Attention to resonance requires a responsibility that surpasses our well-being of self and is independent from our selves (as egos): yet it is a responsibility that can only be ours as individuals, one by one. If we accept the responsibility of attention to resonance, then we are required to respond properly to exactly what is before us and to make this response immediately. If we can begin to do this, we necessarily will begin to shift away from separating our spiritual (metaphysical) ways of thinking from our physical (social-cultural) ways of thinking that are largely based on understanding the direct relations between causes and effects. Instead, we will be released to move toward consciously and mercifully sorting our ways through the complexities of our ecological/cultural time in a way that meaningfully recognizes nature is whole and that this wholeness includes the menace of global warming. We are within global warming, not outside of it.

The attention to resonance that will influence global warming is not divine, nor human. It wells up from the lived consciousness of our lived dwelling upon an earth inside a cosmos whose vastness and meaning are impossible to know, but its source is the limitless spiritual world. The spiritual values of attention to resonance often remain unnamed by usbecause, when we are within the awareness of resonance that will let them live, they manifest uniquely through each and every minute of our engagement with others and every thing. Below I will describe how attention to resonance may be discovered and appear, although because we are unfamiliar with it the awareness of resonance usually comes upon us involuntarily.

First, I note that a present-day truism in our mass cultures at large is that we are all connected. And everything seems to be connected to everything else. The connections may not be immediately physical, but they are there and, in physics, these connections can be described by similar mathematics. In daily experiences these connections are manifested physically and perceptibly. They manifest through individualized networks facilitated by media and cyber technology developments. Their existence is evident in reports that tell of sand from the Sahara being carried by wind and sifted onto American fields and in the wonder of realizing that atoms of exhaled breath by others who lived centuries before us enter our bodies and that our bodies, themselves, are formed from the same “stuff” as stars.  And far distant connections are evident in reports that prove the lakes and rivers and oceans and mother’s milk, all over the world, are filled with toxins whose names we can’t pronounce and that these poisons’ origins are thousands of miles from where we live. Further, on the matter of interconnectedness, the theoretical thought of many scholars and religious figures (historical and contemporary) is now permeating our reflections, conversations, and personal stories.  Significantly, scientific evidence is also being published showing the truth of this: we are connected amongst ourselves, across species, and with all matter. For examples of this: there is evidence for the existence of morphogenic fields, that water holds memory, and the data and analyses from The Global Consciousness Project (an international network of multidisciplinary collaborators who collect data from a global system of random event generators) demonstrate coherence and resonance in the world through patterns that should not exist in random sequences as human consciousness interacts with physical random systems.

In the context of this truism there is an important phenomenon arising and not often addressed: our interconnection with all things is facilitating us to develop a shared collective human consciousness of exponentially increasing complexity. There is ‘so much’, but where in this ‘so much’ are we? In ways that are significant for ourselves, we do our best to bundle all the things together that we respond to in the world. But there is always more to sort. It is within this exponentially increasing complexity and how we respond to it that we have an opportunity to realize and enact an attention to resonance that can influence what is called global warming.

I noted above that the source of attention to resonance is not human and not divine. Neither is its consequence of shared resonance human or divine. What does this mean? It means that when we are authentically engaged with whatever is around us, including stone, attention to resonance manifests. Resonance is an unanticipated phenomenon and not locatable within our desires and motivations. To allow emergence of a resonance with other that is truly affirming in relation (vs. one that is neutral, negligent, or worse) one must be sensitive to feeling. I separate feeling from emotion here. Emotion is an expression of our self. Feeling leads to resonance, often an unwitting one, with the resonance of an ‘other’ before us. Emotions can lead to action for the sake of conserving self or ‘other’. Feeling always leads to harmony and balance. To receive and dwell within this harmony there is nothing to say or do with ‘other’, only that we must remain within our subjectivity as we are beside her, or him, or it. Being within our subjectivity requires a particular responsibility and this responsibility is of a single kind: it is to notice to what we are paying attention. All of us will have had occasions of what seems pure resonance with other people and, sometimes, with animals that we know. These are precious moments because we are dwelling within absolute resonance with another existence besides our self.   For further illustration, let me expand on this with things in the natural world.

Imagine that you are hot, tired, and thirsty while walking without oxygen tanks through a high altitude desert where there appears to be no foliage or plant life whatsoever and, then, a short distance away you suddenly notice a tiny white flower. It captures your attention.  You change direction and walk toward it.  As you do so you are forgetting your heavy breathing, your heavy feet and pack, the heavy worry that you might be lost. You labour toward the flower to see it more closely and something quietly falls away as you witness this miracle of growth. Truly seeing and accepting the existence of something, whatever it may be, is a giving.

Can I answer the question of what exactly is given in such an event and to whom? No. Rather, I’m not sure because such an occasion is not one of reciprocity. It is a sharing of something that already wells up in both existences to the degree that there is a tacit full reception, without emotion, of the existence of each with by other and of what that existence is. Such a reception is pure in the sense of that no values are attached to or are forthcoming between the existences of the two who meet. This reception becomes a shared resonance and this shared resonance is felt and exists in the matrix of the whole, which is the limitless spiritual world. Here, yes, my illustration involves the existence of a flower in relation with a human---but it could be the existence of a building, a stone, anything, and global warming, too. We may be anxious, or angry, or be sad and rage against the ravages of global warming all of which I, for one, have felt and expressed. The existence of this disharmony, too, its ‘non-resonance’ with the existence of global warming before me also is deposited in, given to, the matrix of the whole. I will return below to how receiving global warming in another way can work to ameliorate it.

Another illustration of a spiritual value that is felt and without ‘action’, that instead is a discovery of the vibratory resonances between two (or more) existences. Last winter, I had suffered a small skating accident.  My concussion hurt and I was sitting, tensed from pain, by my window when I noticed a pigeon on its ledge. The temperature was below freezing and the wind roughed the bird’s feathers. I watched the pigeon without my usual sympathy. I seemed ‘neutral’ in my acknowledging its wintry plight and even vaguely wondered about my dispassion. But I found myself watching it carefully. Then I found my pain easing and closed my eyes, only occasionally opening them and noticing the pigeon again. The pigeon, whose eyes also were closing and opening, always seemed to gaze back. About ten minutes later I realized that the pigeon and I were breathing in absolute unison. It had settled in calmness, so had I, and the pulses of our breaths were perfectly synchronized. Where was the cold wind, the pigeon’s chill, my pain? We stayed breathing together for a long while with the icy pane of glass between us.

Once, I did notice a white flower in a desert as above. I could have elected not to attend to it and I could have not attended to the pigeon. Where we place our attention and to what we choose to respond properly for the sake of felt resonance with what is before us is the beginning of an awareness of resonances that allow us to sort our selves through the world more feelingly.

But is not what I am describing exactly what our familiar empathic values associated with our spiritual traditions encourage?  In a way, yes, but no, not really—because our use of present spiritual values and because our beliefs about our actions, movements, and experiences in the world are explained by us to be dependent upon our physical, social and cultural worlds. I am hoping these two illustrations above point toward a reality that is not limited to our typical experience of time, space and matter. There is a reality that surrounds, is omnipresent, and may even be prior to time, space, and matter. Quantum physics describes such a realm and it seems to be akin to an infinite dimensionless space. The quantum processes at play in this realm are fundamental to matter, its atoms and its subatomic particles. Consciousness itself may arise from this realm. (There is growing evidence that consciousness does not arise from our minds.) This something, this realm is the foundational source of everything. This something may be named and understood by humanity as a metaphysical God, but in actuality (and not excluding that this realm is God) it is a realm where possibility and probability waves unceasingly are interacting. It is our attending (and the attending of other organisms within their contexts) and the quality of our consciousness attending that allows what is possible to manifest as what is probable.  Recognizing that, besides the influence of our own minds and desires, there is a source of consciousness affecting us and what we think and feel and do can help us to understand that it is at the cellular level of things where the spiritual world affects most profoundly. It is in shared bodies, our collective lives (both human and non-human), where the future becomes known first.  It is through our resonant cellular awareness of to what and how we are attending that we can be open to more possibilities and that we can influence more probabilities than our minds and instincts alone could ever imagine. And, yes, all life and all not-life are susceptible to the influence of quantum processes.

Then, can an attention to resonance whose source is limitless as I’ve described it ameliorate global warming? I wanted to write that I think so because we gentle ourselves when we gentle others and other things, and new patterns of relation then appear. Of course we must continue to address global warming scientifically, politically, aesthetically. But to ameliorate the condition of global warming, I wanted to write about the necessity of finding another way of thinking that is different from how we think about our physical and spiritual realities. I wanted to write how we need to learn how to imaginatively understand the limitless spiritual world that enfolds us and that we need to do this outside of our physical and spiritual realities.  But I couldn’t continue along this vein for two reasons. The first is that, while now and then I experience this shift in thought and experience that carries me outside our normal realities, I do not have the capacity to speak of it in a didactic way except to remind myself and others that attention to resonance depends upon a special awareness that is one of attention/array, rather than an attention of choice and intention. Attention to resonance is a concentrated, touching awareness. It poignantly accepts what appears before us in unceasing flux and may offer a feeling that hovers between beauty and compassion. Out of such awareness flows a finite concern, which is a disposition toward things and self that involves both sensitive responsiveness and sensitive responsibility. It is a disposition that is not encumbered with attempting to extend our influence and efficacy and possessions. This is all I can say. The second reason I couldn’t continue is because I recalled that in the first part of the essay I had briefly acknowledged the symbol of fire/flame that is a metaphor for almost all human activity. Flame simultaneously is the inspiring starting place of human creativity and the destructive cause of global warming. We need to recognize that both sustain us. We need fires; they are at the core of our creating and imagination, our spirituality, as something we receive even while we co-create them. Yet the product of our spiritual and physical fires, global warming, is more than we need. We are so entangled in global warming which is our own unique material and spiritual creation, that the probability is we may be unable to change it.  A personal anxiety I have is that as the earth becomes hotter, the skies become smokier and water evaporates, spiritual values as we understand them and expect them to come into play will disappear. I don’t wish to end this essay hopelessly. My hope is that we, the human species, can learn to live without depending almost exclusively upon assigning meaning, assigning power, assigning predictability, assigning control. My faith is in a gentleness that is almost unendurable. Naturally this leads me to indicate that we ought to respond to global warming with sensitivity. Let me end this essay with another memory.

One evening in Asia I was speaking in a horribly polluted city. One young woman, among the hundreds of students present, asked me: “When does chaos end?” The question carried my breath away.  In that moment I realized that those before me had suffered everything. This young woman’s question was the deep question of their lived history. Then I remembered to say that if we distance ourselves enough from chaos we can see beautiful and new patterns within it. I told them that scientists have discovered what causes these patterns to appear: they are caused by the self-organizing of chaos around nuances.

Nuances are slight and delicate phenomena---almost not there---yet they are mirror-worlds of the deep and significant dimensions of all potential manifestations. (They inhabit the infinite dimensionless foundational space that I described above.)  Under certain conditions chaos is sensitive to nuances, will lock part of its movement with particular vibrations, and patterns will begin to appear. Only afterward can we judge these patterns for better or for worse. Referring to the history of their country in which I was a guest I said that the horror of their time had been a result of such locking of chaos in their histories with the definite and persistent nuances of certain leaders’ visions.  Now, this locking is being undone, I said.

I told the students that with respect to the chaos in our own minds and lives and cultures, to a remarkable degree, we can choose to which nuances within and around us we wish to be sensitive. It is the nuances to which we are sensitive which ultimately manifest themselves in physical form. Responding to nuances is difficult because culturally we have learned to think and imagine grossly, not subtly. To respond to nuances we must remember that all the particulars of our lives which we notice have fine and intricate possibilities which we do not see and which probably do not fit into our usual categories and naming of signs. However, if we are willing to wait upon them and are willing to absorb them without naming them, then sometimes we can sense these incipient, forming ‘things’. The students understood me. They grasped immediately the personal responsibility which such attention implies.

Global warming and its effect upon everything is the planetary manifestation of our human chaos. We need to unlock ourselves from our historical ways of spiritually and materially depending upon ‘flame’, if global warming is to be re-patterned. Global warming is not something to be battled with, ‘overcome’ and defeated. Rather, being resonant with us, it can be re-patterned into another resonance of life with matter. For this to happen, we must look into global warming and attend upon its looking into us, our oblivion. If we see feelingly enough into the horror of global warming that largely we have created and if we can receive its looking into us, we may discover new patterns within the resonance of our relationship with its existence. Our present arguments about how to ‘stop’ global warming, while politically and practically necessary, take us away from looking into it.  If we would look deeply into global warming, we will sense nuances and new possibilities forming within the limitless spiritual world that includes global warming and us. These can shape into alterations for attention to different shared resonances and new and different activities fuelled by the material and spiritual flames that inspire everything we need to survive. We, humanity, will re-pattern as global warming itself will re-pattern within the shared resonance of us with it.

Seeing feelingly is not impossible. We all have experienced it. When this happens, something quietly rays out from upon what we are looking and from us, too. What rays out is before and away from our usual human sentiment. It is a gentleness that can only exist in a present-tense-alive. It is so beautiful. It is almost too much to bear. I wrote above that I do not desert activism in the writing of this essay. But if attention to our resonance with everything on the earth is a spiritual value then it is in the goodness of the gentleness of shared resonance wherein I place my trust for changing the world and our humanity that has created global warming. Shared resonance is not appreciation: it is the heartbeat of shared existence.

Vivian Darroch-Lozowski, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, University of Toronto

Shopping Bag      Your Account      Help      Store Locator
Home      About Us      Country Profile      Links      Education      In the News      Museum      Klub Remote      Contact
Copyright © 2007 - Universe AfricaTM

IWD Canada