Neuroscience Is Our Era's Phrenology
Martin LeFevre: Phrenology, which was big in the early 1800's, is defined as "the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities." Neuroscience is not a pseudo-science as phrenology was, but given many of its conclusions, much less its veneration, it has become phrenology's equivalent in our time. ... The popularization of neuroscience has reached head-spinning heights. A recent New York Times op-ed, meant to be uplifting, is lugubriously entitled: "Your Brain Is Not For Thinking."...
Nov 28, 2020, 10:36am
The Root of Fragmentation, and the Source of Joy
Martin LeFevre: Though it's little more than a trickle, the little creek at the periphery of town is running again after nearly six months as a stream of stones. Following the months of smoke from the worst wildfire season in California's history, the foothills are vibrantly clear after the first rain of the season. ... It's a very strange thing, with a paradoxical kind of beauty, that the evolution of symbolic thought should both give the human brain the capacity to commune with the inviolability and intelligence that imbues the universe, and be a tremendous impediment to it. ... Thought per se is not the problem however; psychological thought, with the self at the center of the detritus of experience that orbits it, is the impediment...
Nov 22, 2020, 2:58pm
TikTok, the Brain Risks Losing Its Capacity for Insight
Martin LeFevre: On the last warm day in the Valley, before first snow the mountains, I drove up as high as I could through Lassen Volcanic National Park--over 8500 feet/2500 meters. In the thin air, with a stupendous view of the ridges below, you felt he entire Earth lay below, and the whole universe above. ... Where there is no trace of man except the highway and a vehicle passing by every couple minutes, one's mind naturally turned to the big questions. Where are we headed as a species? ... Essentially, the human brain is 'exapted' for insight. The full awakening of insight in a few individuals at the right time will ignite an "Insight Revolution" in the human brain in those individuals that have the capacity for it (and most people do), thereby changing the disastrous course of humankind...
Nov 16, 2020, 12:18pm
From the Edge of the New World
Martin LeFevre: Before going to bed the night of the election with a foreboding that Trump had won again, I listened to the "Largo" movement of Dvorak's "New World" symphony. And wept. ... Given how the election turned out, especially how during his victory speech Joe Biden literally pounded the lectern while thanking the African-American community for supporting him, and then explicitly referred to the plight of Native Americans, my choice of music on election night was very apropos. ... Listening to the "Largo" movement, you can hear the mournful echoes of innumerable Africans torn from their lands and families to become property ... You can also hear strains of sorrow of the indigenous people...
Nov 9, 2020, 11:46am
The Resting Space Between Thoughts
Martin LeFevre: After sitting for an hour at the edge of town, with a smoggy view of the canyon and foothills, and the stones of the dry creek bed at my feet (the rains haven't begun in California yet), the chatter and associations of thought give way to silence and responsiveness. ... Meditation is not a positive movement, but a negational one. It springs from passive watchfulness, which ends the observer, the ancient root of psychological separation. ... It deepens with attention gathering unseen, and dissolving the dense 'me' that forms the gravitational center of thought and from which 'my thoughts' seem to arise. There are just conditioned thoughts; there is no 'me' in actuality...
Nov 5, 2020, 10:13am
Once In Power, Decency Cannot Defeat Evil
Martin LeFevre: On the eve of the most consequential election in US history, what is the significance of the American election to the human prospect? ... Though it's still denied by the vast majority on the right and the left, the loss of "the soul of America" is precisely what has happened to the people. That enabled a narcissistic, amoral man to tap into the long-neglected darkness in the American psyche, giving expression and catalyzing it. ... What is required is an insight explosion in a sufficient minority of people worldwide to change the basic course of humankind...
Nov 2, 2020, 11:50am
Truly, the Future Is Now
Martin LeFevre: Twenty-first century nationalism is just atavistic tribalism with cell phones. After two world wars spewed from nationalistic sewers in the 20th century, yet another scourge of jingoism infects the world. What will it take to finally purge the scourge of tribalism from human consciousness? ... All nationalists feel their nations are the center the world of course. The difference is no empire since the Roman Empire, which encompassed the known world surrounding the Mediterranean, has spread its rapacious culture like America has. ... So if we define God as immanent intelligence, what is She up to? It is an awfully small-minded God that's concerned with the fate of one nation, especially a nation of such military strength and spiritual weakness as America...
Oct 27, 2020, 10:59am
The Limits of Symbol-Based Consciousness
Martin LeFevre: As I stopped on the bike to look at the hills, I was confronted by at least 100 crows. ... Crows are very smart, and I could feel their awareness as they landed and swooped around me. ... On one hand, the evolution of conscious symbolic thought is the single greatest adaptation that evolution has ever produced on Earth. ... On the other hand, it's the most disastrous evolutionary adaptation for the Earth, since the creature in which it evolved-us-is bringing about catastrophic climate change and the Sixth Extinction, which are decimating the diversity of life...
Oct 22, 2020, 10:53am
Take a Break From Politics
Martin LeFevre: The rains haven't come yet, but the leaves have begun to turn-yellows mostly. It's early autumn in California, and the winds have cleared and cleaned the air after months of depressing smoke and toxic haze. ... This damn pandemic makes you appreciate little human exchanges a lot more. I can count on one hand the times I've exchanged more than a few passing words with strangers in the last few months. ... There are two primal fears all people share. The first is being socially outcast ... The second, and directly related inwardly, is leaving the known...
Oct 17, 2020, 10:35am
Filling the Metaphysical Vacuum
Martin LeFevre: The mass madness of QAnon has spread beyond America, the factory of reams of memes for a globalized culture. Neo-Nazi Germans believe Donald Trump will invade and save them from Angela Merkel. It would be hilarious if it weren't so terrifying. ... What is going on here and there? Not at the political level, which frightens the bejesus out of the old media, but at the philosophical and metaphysical level that QAnon represents for the West. ... What's the endgame? ... The antidote to QAnon is what "Q" actually stands for: Questioning with the honest intent to understand, not make oneself feel comfortably part of some group...
Oct 15, 2020, 10:52am
Urgency Is Not a Function of Time
Martin LeFevre: The next few months may well determine the foreseeable future of humanity. There is great urgency, yet most people, on the reasonable left and rationally right, want only a return to so-called normalcy. The comfortable status quo ante not only led inexorably to this global ecological, spiritual and political crisis however; it is gone. ... As humans, separation and manipulation of 'things' is what we do to survive. But fear, need and greed prevent us from seeing when to stop separating from nature, much less cease dividing us from each other...
Oct 13, 2020, 10:03am
Not the Column I Intended to Write
Martin LeFevre: Randomness is part of nature, but where humans are concerned, I don't believe in coincidences. I've been encountering a lot of Catholic people lately. Since I didn't begin rising as a contemplative until I became what they call a "fallen away Catholic," I'm not sure what to metaphysically make of it. ... Organized religion, I sometimes think, is a little like growing out of eating meat or playing football. ... I'm certain of only one thing-the immanence of impersonal sacredness imbuing the universe, with which we human beings can have communion (there's a Catholic word!)...
Oct 10, 2020, 10:54am
Putting God On Trial
Martin LeFevre: I felt today that that purple color must be the most beautiful color on Earth. Taking a short meditation in the meter-wide space between the house and the fence before the flowers close in the hot California sun, I was reminded of the saying: "Color is God." What does it mean? ... A film I watched with a friend last night remains with me today: "God On Trial." It was Masterpiece movie taken from a play by the same name, and is the story of a formal trial conducted at Auschwitz by a group of Jewish men. .. It is both a meditation on evil, and on the nature of God...
Oct 8, 2020, 11:49am
Why Shouldn't We Want Evil To Die?
Martin LeFevre: The deeper question for us as citizens and human beings is this: Given that the nation and world would be better off if Donald Trump died, why shouldn't we wish him dead? If Trump isn't evil, he certainly acts out of extreme collective darkness. ... The spiritual response is clear, and as decent people we have to strive to come up to the mark rather than sink down into the muck. ... First, we aren't God and cannot know what is best in matters of life and death. Though my faith has faltered lately, I still feel there is such a thing as what Christian's call "God's plan." And as inscrutable as it is, even the devil (which is a man-made thing) plays its role within it...
Oct 3, 2020, 2:39pm
What's Required To Defeat Trumpian Evil
Martin LeFevre: The first and most urgent thing for decent people (and I don't just mean Democrats, but Republican citizens who still have an auricle beating in their chests) to do is to disabuse themselves of the idea that Trump has been an anomaly, and that, in Biden's words, "This isn't who we are." ... Every person and every people have an essential intactness from their birth as a person or a people. Call it essence, or soul, or simply indivisible wholeness. We can commit many mistakes and do many wrongs, but if we lose this ineffable quality, we are dead as people. ... Once that happens, as it did nearly 30 years ago in America, the only way to regain our soul is to fully acknowledge and mourn its loss, and want its recovery more than our lives themselves...
Sep 27, 2020, 10:51am