“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
―Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Changing of the Seasons
They say that we don't have seasons in California. Well, for those friends from New England, I understand where they are coming from, with their contrasting winter snows, autumn's fiery leaves, spring's bursting color palette, and humid summer. But the seasons don't need to shout with flaming colors to usher in the fall. It comes anyway. In California, one must pay attention to it.
As the fall season begins, there seems to be a hush in the air, then the land takes a long exhale in relief from the long summer heat. The Santa Ana's blow warm and then cooler and cooler. I love the sound of the sycamore leaves scraping across the sidewalk. Or the vortex of yellow leaves that kick up into lazy pirouettes as cars pass under the naked branches at the end of my street. There are changes in my garden too. The tomato plants are barren, but my Japanese yuzu is heavy with citrus. They just tease me in October, but they will ripen in winter.
And we can't forget the pumpkins! It was a gift from my scrub jay friend who buries the nuts and seeds that I give him each morning. I imagine that jay's have planted many a tree. This particular seed sprouted in the space between the steppingstones on my garden path. I left it there and to my excitement, a big orange pumpkin grew on the meandering vine.
I cut it loose on October 1st and it now sits on my porch. I will harvest the seeds for next year. I plan to turn this pumpkin into compost in the winter and that the seeds will sprout again in late spring thus continuing the spiraling seasons.
I do love the fall best of all the seasons. When you look for it, you can find it in pumpkin gifts and dancing leaves.
What seeds did you plant in spring, that you will harvest this fall? And what is a seed really, but creative transformation and hope for the future...?
“Autumn is the hardest season. The leaves are all falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground.”
Fall Campaign: Dream Bigger
In 1972 John Cobb’s book Is It Too Late was published. In the ensuing years we have seen enormous technical advances. We now carry our phones in our back pocket, which are also handheld computers providing us with internet access as well as face to face communication if we so choose. In 1971 Intel created the first microprocessor. A hard drive used to be the size of a small refrigerator, if not larger, and the hard drive on the computer I’m now writing on is thinner than a check book and about a third of the size. We eradicated smallpox in 1980, the last known case appearing in Somalia. Many cancers that once had a high fatality rate are mostly curable. Insulin pumps are now small enough to affix to a small spot on your body. In 1973 the life expectancy in the United States was 71.42 years. In 2020 it was 78.99 years, down slightly because of COVID-19. We have solar panels that are manufactured by companies that have projects all over the world. There are countries that are on the verge of being completely free of fossil fuels as a source for power generation as they utilize a combination of solar and wind power generation. Iceland is down to a 9% fossil fuel utilization. We have cars and trucks that are all electric, and at least one company that brags their truck will power your house.
While these advances have been nothing short of amazing, they have also had unintended consequences. There are 13.8 million households in the United States that are food insecure, experiencing hunger daily. Globally there are 720-811 million people that are in this same situation. The obesity rate in the United States in 1971 was 32.7%, and in 2020 it was 42.4%. Obesity can be related to hypertension, some cancers, early death, decreased mobility and shortened life span. There is a cost to our success, and we are on the verge of putting our planet at risk through unchecked climate change.
Climate change has become the existential threat of our time. As our lifestyles create more greenhouse gases, we are melting our ice caps and our glaciers. The Larsen C ice shelf spawned a very large iceberg in 2017 that finally melted in 2021. This was in addition to the breaking off a portion of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002 that was about the size of Rhode Island. The Larsen ice shelf melting and breaking up is the result of a combination of warmer water and warmer air temperatures. As the surface ice heats up it creates streams of water that cut into the ice shelf and weaken its structures. As the water around it warms up this further erodes the glacier or ice cap’s strength. These are not the only examples; we know one of the characteristics of climate change is extremes in the weather patterns, from draughts in Africa to heat waves in Europe.
We have accepted an economic paradigm that assumes the mind and the body are separate (despite the neurological data), and economic satisfaction is determined by the perceived utility of the products we purchase and utilize. Humans are seen as separate from each other, and only loosely connected by neighborhoods and cities within which they live. The housing developments that are created push the front door back from the street, and with garage door openers you can arrive home and never see a neighbor. We are isolated in many ways, while the economy is treated like a huge machine where transactions are repeated without regard for the future of the planet, except the level of profits that can be attained. If we are to shift this paradigm of mechanization and isolation, it will have to be done within the context of communities. Or, as John Cobb often states, “communities of communities.” More precisely “compassionate communities.”
Compassionate Communities as a Response
Compassionate communities can be developed. In his book The Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin shows that as human beings evolved from tribal structures to more modern individualized structures, we began to develop empathy for the individuals around us. As we differentiated from the tribe, and as individual differentiation intensified, empathy became the way to develop and retain connection with others. It was no longer the tribal connection, but the emotional connection of empathy. As we could see and feel that others were alone, hurt, tired, etc., we then could have a sense of being in another’s shoes.
Yet we don’t lose the sense of connection as we differentiate as humans. As Daniel J. Siegel suggests in The Developing Mind, “embedded” in the experience of empathy is the sense of a broader system, as he calls it. I agree that the sense of connection is “embedded” within our experience of empathy, but the term system is unfortunate and takes us back to a rather mechanical approach to human behavior and interaction. When you look at a system you look at a broader context for sure. However, if you change the term to organism, you now have something living that has internal relations with the world and the social exchanges that are based upon an exchange of energy, and not one billiard ball bouncing off another.
Making this shift to internal relations, the term organism, in my opinion, makes it easier to begin discussing compassion as arising out of a “shift” between our feeling as an individual and being “interconnected” at the same time. I prefer to use the term interrelated instead of interconnected. Interrelated provides a fuller description of our experience as human beings living within an organism. By making these shifts from a mechanical structure it becomes easier to emphasize our interrelatedness to each other and a living planet. We are part of a living organism, and our actions and activities within it have a real impact upon the inhabitants of the planet. The context in which they now exist is because we are in fact interrelated.
Within compassion as an experience is the realization that something can be done to change the conditions within which others experience pain, or a condition that attenuates who they are as a human being. Compassion is a call to reduce and eliminate the suffering of others. As such, a compassionate mindset looks to move toward action to make changes in a world where climate change, racial tension, and income inequality threaten humanity’s future. Recognizing our individual interrelatedness, empathy and compassion for others can lead us toward seeking solutions to our most pressing social, environmental, and economic issues.
One of the projects the Cobb Institute is supporting in the Pomona area is related to the low-income housing needs of the city. With a large child population at or below the poverty level the Cobb Institute can, with others, make a significant impact upon the lives of the children and their families. Research by the Urban Institute points out that poor housing conditions increase the likelihood that a child will currently and, in the future, suffer from higher instances of anxiety, depression and asthma. The instance of obesity is higher than the general population amongst low-income families as fast food and high sugar content foods are affordable and convenient. Children in poor housing conditions also experience sexual and physical violence at a higher level, and are exposed to high levels of alcohol and drug abuse by their care givers. Poverty and poor housing go hand in hand with physical abuse emotional trauma. These experiences not only carry an emotional toll, but can also have an epigenetic impact. That is, a child’s DNA will be imprinted in a way that the probability for generational repetition, say, for obesity or traumatic behavior will have a higher probability.
The cycle of high rents and poor-quality housing makes it difficult to alter the cycle, but housing stability can, while not solve all the problems mentioned, can interrupt the cycle that keeps parents unemployed or under employed which will increase the probability that children will experience less disruption and higher income levels later in life. The solutions will not be accomplished by just the private sector or the public sector, rather they will be accomplished through partnerships, as the one that exists between the Cobb Institute and the city of Pomona. This is important work, and as the impact of climate change intensifies even more important work in that our most vulnerable communities will feel these effects to the greatest degree.
Note from John Cobb
American political discussion generally takes for granted the opposition of the United States and China. A great article in the LA Progressive recently proposed that we “Imagine a World with US-China Cooperation.” It began by noting that “on September 10, 2021 . . . U.S. President Joseph Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinpeng affirmed the necessity of a better relationship between the two nations.”
Without knowing about this, on September 19, a few of us decided that it was time to urge these two presidents to give higher priority to working together to deal with global problems that threaten catastrophe than to jockeying for superiority in the international scene. Our decision led to my writing a letter sent to the two presidents.
We picked up on Biden’s recognition in his address to the United Nations that it should be possible, without resolving all issues and disagreements, for nations to work together on global problems. That is our only hope. Biden did not mention China, but he seemed to express openness in that direction.
In my letter I strongly supported this new direction in U.S. policies but also pointed out that it would not be possible for China to respond wholeheartedly as long as the United States continued to identify China as its No. 1 enemy. A change of rhetoric is necessary, and the many actions of the U.S., expressive of enmity, must be curtailed. Disagreements and even rivalry do not prevent cooperation on truly important matters, but enmity does. We believe that the Chinese government would cooperate with the United States if approached in a respectful way, and I encouraged President Xi to respond positively to any favorable gestures on President Biden’s part.
The current and obvious political pressures in both countries work against friendship. Friendship in both countries will be considered traitorous by the many extreme nationalists who measure success by the harm inflicted on enemies. While hoping to strengthen President Biden’s commitment to work with China, we are also working to build grassroot support in the United States. We are asking all who are in agreement to support the statement below.
We, of course, hope that drastic change will occur soon. Our first hope is to help that happen. But if, as I suspect, public opinion and political pressure will prevent adequate change, our second hope is to promote enthusiastic imagining of real joint-commitment by the world’s two greatest powers to saving humanity from self-destruction. If the desirability of this change is widely discussed, momentum for setting opposition aside may grow strong enough to make a real difference.
Much of the work of the Cobb Institute is to support its members and others in promising projects. The Board and staff are helping, but it is formally and legally my personal project, one that I could not possibly carry through alone.
Statement for Signatures of Support
We are thankful for what President Biden and President Xi have done to revive our hope that there might be a good future for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We call on both leaders to set aside differences to cooperatively work to save the planet, our common home, making this your top priority. In order to bring about this reality, we ask you to summon all your courage and wisdom so that by acting in tandem to make the necessary changes—economically, politically, militarily, and ecologically—that neither nation can accomplish on its own. May future generations look back on your joint heroism with gratitude for making possible the life they enjoy.
Steps Toward a Well-Being Economy in the City of Pomona
Members of Cobb Institute are working strategically with Pomona’s Latino/a Roundtable and the Institute for Ecological Civilization toward a well-being economy in Pomona. City leaders are in the process of earmarking funds for implementation of a worker-owned cooperative. City funds may be used to hire organizers to generate grassroots support as well as backing from a coalition of community organizations.
One possibility for a co-op enterprise is creation of a commercial kitchen that contracts with local educational and medical institutions for providing food services. The kitchen could receive organic, chemical-free produce from local, urban farms. Also, a licensed kitchen could help street vendors comply with the law, giving them a competitive advantage over illegal street vending operations, some of which exploit their workers.
This is a modest step toward an economy that is an organic part of community life, with extra weight given to the well-being of marginalized communities. We envision business enterprises driven by the people, reflecting democratic principles. A local economy, rather than being top-down and extractive, can take its rightful place in building what Martin Luther King called a "beloved community."
Six Sessions Exploring Whitehead, Jung, and Why We Need Them Now
In this six-session course, Dr. Sheri D. Kling will guide students through the deep resonances between the philosophy of organism of Alfred North Whitehead and analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung to show what these two great thinkers have in common and why we need them now more than ever.
Begins November 2nd.
NEW LEARNING CIRCLE
A Discussion Group Contemplating the
Evolutionary Vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Facilitated by Dr. Ernie Tamminga, this learning circle will carefully consider the vision of the human evolutionary future as seen by the French Jesuit and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Begins November 17th.
The Integration part of spiritual Integration has taken center stage recently, as the Cobb Institute entered into a strategic collaboration with the Center for Process Studies to expand Process & Faith (P&F) into a community-led, multi-faith platform for exploring ideas, forms of spiritual vitality, and healing forms of action for the sake of enriching faith communities. In the past, P&F has focused primarily on Christianity, but now the Christians have company. Multiple teams have assembled to represent as many faiths as possible, and soon the website will be full of diverse ideas and many ways of making meaning in this world in process.
In this instant
take off your shoes
feel the damp sand
seep between your toes
step into the canyon stream
watch iridescent patterns
of sun and water flow over your feet
as arrowgrasses stir in the breeze
thunderclouds rise over distant peaks
listen to resonant
trumpets of migrating geese
smell the tang of freshly
fallen autumn leaves
this moment will never
be the same again
nor was it ever
your eye glimpses
my flash of friendship
in a second
our bodies’ atoms
change place each nanosecond
twenty minutes from now
the water on your ankles
will pour into the
in mere eons the mountains
on the horizon
fourteen billion years ago
the cosmic egg ruptured open
lurched the arrow of time forward
began its elemental outward journey
four hundred million years later
collapsing clouds of gas
produced primordial stars
in another few billion years
the cosmos will expand so far
our heavens will be
to one another
forever will be
Lynn Sargent De Jonghe
Michael Witmer's Fall Photo Diary: A Sampling
“In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that's the way new leaves grow.”
“Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.”
A New Community
We're very excited to report that the Claremont Process Nexus was officially launched last month.
What is the Claremont Process Nexus? A network of organizations and individuals that affirm process-relational ways of understanding and living.
Who belongs to the Nexus? People who share common views and values, and desire to live out those views and values in ways that are beneficial to all.
What is the purpose of the Nexus? To bring together anyone in the process movement from anywhere the world in order to increase communications, facilitate interactions, and deepen relationships between them.
Why join the Nexus? To interact with and learn from like-minded people, contribute to a collaborative endeavor that is mutually beneficial, and belong to a community of communities that affirms that we should live with respect and care for one another and the larger community of life.
Watch the Kickoff Event
Cobb & Friends Gatherings
|Nov 2nd||SoCal Chapter Parliament of World Religions|
|Nov 9th||Damian Geddry & Paul Capetz: Google My Soul! Reaching A New Generation of Spiritual Seekers|
|Nov 16th||Thomas J. Oord, "Why Be Compassionate if God Isn't?"|
|Nov 23rd||Sam Mickey, Ecology and Justice in a Changing Climate|
|Nov 30th||Elizabeth McAnally, Loving Water across Religions|