Cognitive dissonance – whistling ducks

Those ducks looked oh so familiar, lurking under weeping willow trees by Knutsford’s Moor Pool. But something felt wrong. Then I realised. These were black bellied whistling ducks, very familiar from our visits to Houston, Texas. And this was Knutsford, Cheshire, far away from the homelands of these American sub/tropical birds (see Wikipedia entry).

How did they find their way to Knutsford? A mistaken migration across the Atlantic? Unlikely, as this is not a migratory species. More likely, they are escapees from somewhere like WWT Martin Mere? Anybody know?

Darter, common

The next day after the previous post, another dragonfly appears in the vicinity of the garden pond, and stays still on the crocosmia, presumably waiting for its wings to develop after emerging. This was maybe between one inch and an inch and a half long.

Reference to the British Dragonfly Society website suggests this is a common darter, colours not yet matured into red.

It seems to me that this demonstrates one of the many benefits of a garden pond in providing for a diversity of wildlife. Unfortunately, garden ponds are no longer as popular in UK as they were in my memory, probably due to the work involved in maintaining them. It’s so much easier to mow a lawn, put down plastic grass, or tarmac it over.

Hawker, common

You know how dragonflies are always on the move, usually continuously patrolling their territory. So it was a surpise to see this large one just basking on a loganberry stem in the garden. The insect was probably a couple of inches long.

The British Dragonfly Identification Guide suggests that this is a common hawker. We realised that this was probably newly emerged, maybe from our garden pond, waiting for its wings to fully develop.

Another revelation was the following zoom closeup taken with my Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone, confirming that high-end modern smartphone cameras have caught up with many of the capabilities of my previously favoured compact superzooms Panasonic TZ80/TZ200. And this shot has been reduced to 2500px width.

Big eyes!

Crocosmia

As we enjoyed an evening drink in the garden, the declining evening sun was at just the right angle to back-light these crocosmia flowers and buds. Quick, grab the camera…

A load of mushrooms

It was just a large patch of mushrooms in a lawned public area, but closer inspection revealed interesting almost-geometrical patterns as the various individual cups had aged. Just the opportunity to try out the supposedly good camera on my new Samsung smartphone..

I haven’t managed to identify these, but the cups look unremarkable until they start to broaden and split with age. Here a single daisy completes the scene.

The sharpness could be better, and there’s a limit to what you can do with sharpening software…

Challenging times

A recent post by Gail Tverberg explains what many of us suspect, that the world economic/resource/technology/political ‘system’ is running into the buffers. She suggests that this is a problem of the physics of the system, and not something that is easily addressed. Her conclusion makes sobering reading:

“We are dealing with a situation that economists, politicians and central banks are ill-equipped to handle. Raising interest rates may squeeze out a huge share of the economy. The economy was already ‘at the edge.’ We can’t know for certain.

Virtually no one looks at the economy from a physics point of view. For one thing, the result is too distressing to explain to citizens. For another, it is fashionable for scientists of all types to produce papers and have them peer reviewed by others within their own ivory towers. Economists, politicians and central bankers don’t care about the physics of the situation. Even those basing their analysis on Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) tend to focus on only a narrow portion of what I explained in [this post]. Once researchers have invested a huge amount of time and effort in one direction, they cannot consider the possibility that their approach may be seriously incomplete.

Unfortunately, the physics-based approach I am using indicates that the world’s economy is likely to change dramatically for the worse in the months and years ahead. Economies, in general, cannot last forever. Populations outgrow their resource bases; resources become too depleted. In physics terms, economies are dissipative structures, not unlike ecosystems, plants and animals. They can only exist for a limited time before they die or end their operation. They tend to be replaced by new, similar dissipative structures.

While the current world economy cannot last indefinitely, humans have continued to exist through many bottlenecks in the past, including ice ages. It is likely that some humans, perhaps in mutated form, will make it through the current bottleneck. These humans will likely create a new economy that is better adapted to the Earth as it changes.”

We in the West have had the opportunity, since WW2, to live through the best of times, driven by plentiful energy and resources. Now we approach the times of reducing energy and resources, of climate breakdown, of conflict such as we already see today in Ukraine. Our mindsets need to change, and we need a whole new approach to organising the affairs of humankind on earth and its parts, one that is more aligned with the natural world.

The end of civilisations and empires is always a turbulent time, but also one replete with opportunity for renewal. The challenge to all countries and individuals is to ride the waves and emerge in a better place the other side…

But dare any politician say such a thing and get elected?

Featured image of storm clouds by FotoSleuth, via Wikimedia Commons

At Mission San José

Mission San José in San Antonio was founded in 1720, one of five mission communities formed along the San Antonio River at the northern frontier of New Spain, a territory of the Spanish Empire. These Spanish colonial missions aimed to transform local ways of life by introducing Christianity, farming, and settled communities.

Living quarters for indigenous people and the odd soldier were built within the mission, against the compound walls. The church was the focal point and the missionary lived next to it. Workshops and storerooms dotted the central grounds. Outside the walls were croplands and ranches.

The land became part of Mexico in 1821 after the Mexican war of independence, then part of Texas in 1836 after the Texan war of independence, and Texas was annexed to USA in 1845.

Today the mission is much restored and provides a historic and photogenic visitor attraction. Here’s a small selection from our visit. Click to see slideshow.

A couple of Texas beetles

These 6-spotted green tiger beetles were at the Audubon Centre in Houston (Edith L. Moore Reserve).

Size is around half an inch, and the colouring is a remarkable iridescent green, with touches of blue. You can see the six spots.

Completely different and smaller is this blue/black and red flea beetle seen at Seguin, Texas.

Apparently, they hop to propel themselves and fly away when threatened.

It is good to research and name these unknown (to me) species, although there is also a good argument to just be in, look and marvel at nature – rather than compulsively needing to name everything. Left and right brain – best to engage both!

The daimon

Why are we born at a particular time and place? Is there any meaning to life? Materialism suggests not, we make the best we can of the random circumstances around us. 

But what if we live in a world of meaning, and the life we are born to calls us to an individual destiny or calling?  This is the possibility and challenge presented on James Hillmans’ book The Soul’s Code (1996). Hillman refers to Plato’s idea of the daimon:

“The soul of each of us is given a unique daimon before we are born, and it has selected an image or pattern that we live on earth…. The daimon is the carrier of your destiny.”

Hillman’s book is an exploration of this concept, known as the acorn theory for obvious reasons, and gives numerous examples of individuals who have realised specific destinies that came to them at particular times  or were evident from early life. The caution I would apply is that most of his examples are quite remarkable individuals, suggesting that only a subset of individuals are so driven.

It is also notable that the daimon is not necessarily a positive. Too many times do we see in history exceptional individuals driven by narcissism and the will to power over others, apparently driven by demons, a related word.

The dramatic effect of this theory is what many educationalists have always maintained – that the purpose of education is to facilitate the emergence of the child’s true potential, not to train them to conform in the jobs market. 

Hillman suggests that much of modern psychology has tended to treat emerging features of the daimon as psychological problems rather than as facets of the daimon, thus using standardised medication to suppress them. Cf the US Diagnostics and Statistics Manual. 

The daimon is llnked, from Hillman’s perspective, with the concept of character, which is the pattern of the daimon as presented to the world. As we look at todays political shinanegins in the UK Conservative Party we largely look in vain for exemplary characters fulfilling a daimon related to public service. The same is apparent across the pond.

The idea of the daimon fits perfectly with Bruno Huber’s astrological psychology, where the birth chart represents the pattern of energies in the universe at time of birth, and can be used to help in understanding the pattern of the person’s daimon, thus uncovering what has greatest meaning for them and their lives.

Featured islamic pattern by Maureen from Buffalo, USA,
CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

Autopoesis

An excellent article by Alfredo Erlwein-Vicuna in the recent edition of Resurgence magazine champions the concept of autopoesis – which is perhaps hampered by its rather obscure name. 

The basic idea is that cognition is the basic process of life, which is a process of a self creation. There is no separation between organism and environment; our perception of these sees different aspects of the same process. The whole is self regulating. Cf Gaia theory. 

According to Wikipedia “the term originates from the Greek αὐτo (self), and ποίησι (creation, production), referring to a system capable of producing and maintaining itself by creating its own parts”.

Fritjof Capra described this as “the first scientific theory that unifies mind, matter and life.”

Originator of the theory, Humberto Maturana states that reality is different for every living being because it is determined according to the sensory processes of each organism. There is no absolute truth. 

Erlwein-Vicuna suggests that democracy is a way of people living in mutual acceptance, which is perhaps a way of organising human affairs that is consistent with autopoesis. 

These ideas point the way beyond the current scientific materialism and the unsustainable politics of power and domination, towards a science that begins to understand life itself and a politics of cooperation and sustainability. 

Science, Philosophy, and Schizoid Man

Here, the Crysalis encapsulates today’s problem. When natural philosophy was effectively superseded by objective science, we set off on a track that has inexorably led to today’s loss of wisdom. It won’t be easy to get back, but without wisdom how can humanity hope to survive long term?

( featured image from Blake’s Ancient of Days, by Frank Vincentz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Chrysalis

Before there was something called “Science” (with a capital “S”, and which is only of relatively recent coinage) it was called “natural philosophy”. That name itself is significant because it indicates that science and philosophy were not considered separate specialist activities and departments, but a unity — the unity of the quest for knowledge with the pursuit of wisdom.

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Evening primrose

This evening primrose seems to like our garden, having transplanted itself several times to give miltiple sources of beautiful yellow flowers that seem to glow at evening time. The flowers soon die, but more appear continuously for months on end through the summer.

From role to soul?

I suppose that to some people the theme of Connie Zweig’s book The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul will have no meaning. If we take the view that all life is on the surface, with no interiors, then what could inner work mean for the materialist? If we take what seems to me the sensible viewpoint, that we live in parallel interior and exterior worlds, and that through experience and inner exploration we can become more perfect beings, even align to what it is that led us to be born, then this book could have a lot of meaning for you.

Connie Zweig suggests that in the later part of life we have the opportunity to realise what our whole life process has been about, potentially becoming Elders and mentors for others. The process of building ego, that constituted the first part of life, evolves into a learning process, an uncovering of the strong ego that we built, to transcend its fundamental selfishness and in the light of our new understanding make a positive contribution aligned with our unique destiny.

This is, of course, aligned with the messages underlying transpersonal psychologies and all the world’s major religions and spiritual teachers, extensively quoted by Connie. She suggests that there are two major processes that we go through – psychological reconciliation with the Shadow (and, I would suggest, any traumas accumulated there), and the movement from dominance by ego to being led by our inner soul/spirit.

For me this was like a revision of many approaches to psychological and spiritual growth that I have become aware of over a lifetime,  and important reminders they are.

Becoming reconciled with our own failures and ultimate death are of course a part of this process – death being the great taboo in a surface-oriented culture, death being the end of ego.

Important to me was the emphasis on achieving wisdom, and moving towards the role of the wise Elder, and the importance of this role in society – a role forgotten in many countries including my own – where the upper house of Parliament is apparently misused to reward those giving money to Parties, rather than being the place for the most wise members of society to reflect on new developments.

An important book on an important subject, which is of course outside the current mainstream, but no less important for that.

What can we know?

What can we know about life? Start with what we might all agree on.

Look inside. I am a conscious subject.

Look outside. There appears to be an objective material world in which I experience. I have a body that operates in this external world.

There also appear to be in this world other conscious subjects, including those who conditioned me from birth, and including animals and other creatures. I recognise their interiority.

Much of that interiority is shared across humans (at least) – my surrounding culture.

Summary. Basic dualities.

Basic dualities
  • Interior/exterior or subject/object or conscious/material.
  • Individual/collective or me/society + culture.

Quadrants

We can express this as four quadrants; none is reducible to the others.

Wilber quadrants

These are the Four Quadrants of Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology, and Ken and others have done a great job of mapping all human knowledge onto these four quadrants. See for example his Integral Psychology or his magnum opus Sex, Ecology and Spirituality.

For example,

  • modern science belongs on the right, as it is concerned with objectivity and, axiomatically, excludes the subject.
  • psychology and spirituality belong on the left, although scientific psychology and institutional religion attempt to reduce this to the right, or control it from the right.
  • culture belongs in the bottom left, and social and government systems in the bottom right.
Huber quadrants

These are also the four quadrants of the modern astrological birth chart. Astrology and astrological psychology have long encompassed all aspects of our being in the world. See for example Bruno & Louise Huber’s The Astrological Houses or Life Clock.

Limitations

Remember that the quadrants are an analytical breakdown, and can only represent suggestive truth. In reality we know that all is interconnected; models such as this may help, but always have their limitations.

What this does imply is that one-dimensional approaches to life cannot work. Materialism is a dead end; it cannot deal with interiors and ends up being inhuman. Control of people’s innermost thoughts through religious or political systems is another dead end; it cannot effectively deal with exteriors through science. Humanity has tried all of these through history.

We just have to embrace the complexity, and ultimately the mystery, of life.

Featured image licensed via Shutterstock.

Swan goose

Still catching up with images from our Houston trip. This strange looking bird seen in Houston Hermann Park is, I think, a Swan Goose. These birds originate from Mongolia and China, but small populations of escapees seem to have now established them in the Americas.

As we discovered, they can make a very loud honking noise.