I was able to consolidate all my previous blog postings from the previous 2 sites and will use this one going forward. Feel free to brows the old postings via the key words and stay tuned for further thoughts.
The Peacemaker in Residence position was eliminated at Etown College due to strategic realignment. I am no longer at the college Please message me if you want an updated email address.
Fright Futures – Bright Futures
8 June 2019
To continue with my series of what it would look like to imagine a bright future (rather than a dystopian one) I offer another story starter called Animal Wisdom. Imagine a world where wisdom was EVERYWHERE and our living, breathing friends in the animal kingdom had a special ability to share the deepest secrets of the universe to help us find our way.
The ability to communicate with animals had been something that Jessica had kept as a closely guarded secret for the first few years of her life. From her earliest memories she knew what her dog, Rusty, was thinking. From protecting her from traffic as a toddler to the unease she read from Rusty’s demeanor toward untrustworthy people, Jessica seemed to have a natural animal connection that extended way beyond her pets. Jessica remembered the first time she communicated an intention to a spider that had inadvertently bungie jumped from the ceiling, to dangle in front of her face. Rather than panic, she calmly set the intention to assist the spider in finding a more appropriate venue to spin a web. Quick compliance and cooperation between the two resulted in a violence free encounter and a spider-free home.
Animals trusted her partly because Jessica was able to respect the animals for their inherent nature and needs. Jessica became the bridge to communicate the intentions of the humans who were frustrated with the inability to make their needs known to the animal kingdom. As Jessica developed her abilities and shared her insights, people of all persuasions sought her out to ‘solve’ animal conflicts ranging from ground hogs digging up gardens, to an agitated and confused orca that threatened tourist boats.
Jessica was not the only one who woke up to latent gift of hearing the subtle voices of the natural world just outside the urban jungle. The new discipline of ‘Human/Animal Mediation’ turn out to be the biggest field of study for the incoming class of 2045 in Liberal Arts Colleges . . .
Fright Futures – Bright Futures
25 May 2019
To continue with my series of what it would look like to imagine a bright future (rather than a dystopian one) I offer a story starter called Quantum Connections. Thinking about how all things are unified at the atomic level, I imagine what it would be like for human consciousness to be fully immersed in knowing that love is the space between the atoms. So, here are the first paragraphs in that story . . .
All things are connected. By mid century this truism had worked its way into the psyche of most people on the planet. Something known by every other living thing, the bipeds with supposed higher order thinking had finally come to accept what every other physical manifestation – from the rocks to trees to warm blooded creatures – had known and embodied from the core of their molecular structure . . . everything is one.
As homo sapiens began to re-order their existence (political, social and economic) around the reality that all things are intimately interconnected, happiness began to become a ubiquitous byproduct. The realization that, even at the level of the quark, each thing is intertwined with every other in the universe…as with a spider web in jiggling one thread resonates throughout the whole net . . . brought a sense of responsibility and agency to humanity as never before.
In his lab, Matt a quantum physicist, accepted this reality as he pondered the next iteration of interconnection. He had recently discovered that it was possible to impress a field of gratitude upon a crystalline structure and have that temper every digital bit that passed through the clock circuit of microprocessors. The result? Artificial Intelligence (AI) with timing from these care modulated networks now embodied a level of compassion that insured their decisions were based on the greatest golden path for the highest common good. Matt begin to dream about how compassionate AI might be possible to heal the planet from the excesses of industrialization and domination systems of the past centuries . . .
The human race is the only species (that we know of) that is capable of imaging its own frightening demise in such technicolor detail. In fact, looking at most science fiction produced today, a dystopian future where the world has been shredded by war, scorched by nukes and/or dominated by cruel and vicious despots is the norm. Science fiction tells us what the future will look like in some jolting ways. Author Arthur C. Clarke predicted satellites in geo-sync orbit decades before that became reality(1). Isaac Asmov wrote about the 3 laws of robotics as ways to keep robots (think AI) serving humanity instead of the other way around. (2) Kim Stanley Robinson wrote of how mars was colonized with the cycle of power, domination and war predictably following. (3) This last one has yet to play out although it is clear we will colonize mars . . .
Does it have to be this way? What I suggest is that sci-fi writers have a huge role to play in helping humanity imagine that we will ‘get it right’ in terms of bright, happy futures filled with dignity for ALL. In this blog series I will suggest paragraph book starts with ideas that could be expanded upon to imagine a bright future on this planet. Here goes with my first Bright Future sci-fi starter. . .
The Cost of Denial
By the mid-2020s it became clear that the political cost of climate change denying made running untenable. In fact, in the 2024 presidential elections, not a single candidate in any of the 6 parties who fielded a congressional candidate had a record of silence, if not outright denial, of the so called ‘climate debate’ at the turn of the century. Such was the tsunami of unanimous demand from the populace for leadership to act!
Image from Wikimedia commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robot-clip-art-book-covers-feJCV3-clipart.png
From the United Nations to the United Biosphere
Peacemaker in Residence @ Elizabethtown College
17 July 2018
“All things are connected.” This is a mantra I have been repeating and exploring ever since I heard it for the first time in 1984. Indeed, my very own definition of peacebuilding, arising out of my 30+ years of international work, includes at its foundation a re-connecting. So, in a time when our problems as a human species transcend boundaries of nation state, ethnicity, tribe and family, it is time to innovate like all things are connected.
To solve the wicked problems of war, famine, disease and the impacts of climate change, it is imperative to develop a new consciousness of how all things are connected. An expanded human consciousness that sees all people as siblings might not even be a large enough to make sense of and respond to our current plight. Humans have to develop a biospheric consciousness.
Nearly every liberal arts college in the US and Canada has a Political Science department whose broad task is to prepare the next generation of leaders for engaging in the political space for the wielding of power. But the definitions of ‘political’ imply the human centric differentiations drawn through social and partisan groupings that included power blocks, borders, boundaries and alliances.
What we need is a Bio-litical (Biolitical) Science department in our higher education institutions. This degree would teach the next generation of leaders how to wield power for the largest greater common good that is based on an awareness of the connection rather than differentiation and boundaried nature of all things. A progression in thinking would be the formation of the United Biospheric (UB), a forum that would bring all things to a table of consensus for the common good for all. What would it mean for earth, water, air, and fire, along with species of plants and animals, to have an equal say at the UB? What would a UB Security Council look like or would having developed this forum give an unprecedented level of security only dreamed about today? What new listening skills would humans need to develop to even be able to hear the concerns of, say, fire within our biosphere yet alone honor and respect fire as an equal member of the UB?
The first tasks for humans would be to dismantle our species-centric thinking that pervades, at least in the Western World, the actions of humans. Fortunately for those of us with enlightenment and Eurocentric cosmologies, we don’t have to reinvent this. Many indigenous cosmologies already have pieces of this understanding.
The Myth of Security: Why We Need to Place People Before Guns on the Global Partners for the Prevention of Armed Conflict web site: Link
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Alliance for Peacebuilding or Elizabethtown College)
A guest blog I wrote for Global Partnerships about using simulations and scenarios to teach peace.
It’s the rainy season in western India. I arrived in the former garrison hill town of Pune just after midnight to one of those famous monsoon deluges. Having been on the Fulbright Specialist roster for two years waiting for the right project, I accepted an invitation from the Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts (SSLA) to assist them in various tasks related to peacebuilding. I committed to a six-week residency on their newest campus in the Viman Nagar district of Pune. SSLA inhabits the third floor of an enormous building that also houses the graduate program in International Studies and the Law School.
SSLA is but one of the Symbiosis ‘family of schools.’ Started in the 1970s by Prof. Dr. S.B. Mujumdar, Symbiosis has become one of India’s top private university systems. With six campuses spread out all over Pune and other major urban areas of India, it has a vision and expanding capacity to constructively shape India’s future leaders. It is gratifying to find overlap with the values embraced by Elizabethtown College. Among the commonalities are a commitment to a global perspective and service for the greater common good.
Anita Patankar, the Director of SSLA, is a visionary educator who sees liberal arts as an excellent vehicle to prepare young leaders to face the complex challenges of the current age. Indeed, as we have chatted the last few days, the similarities in our philosophies of education make me feel very much at home. Individualized attention and mentoring to students, interactive activities to make learning fun and an assumption about the ‘connectedness of things’ are all pedagogical approaches that affirm my saying ‘yes’ to SSLA. Classes start Monday and I am excited for the coming classroom interaction.