BUILDING THE EMPATHY MOVEMENT: How Might we Build the Empathy Movement?

Edwin RutschEdwin Rutsch 2022-04-16 – This group comes together to work on: How Might We Design and Build the Empathy Movement? Join us in future dialogues. Empathy Circle. 1. What is an Empathy Circle? 2. Why Participate? 3. How to Empathy Circle? 4. Empathy Circle Facilitator Edwin Rutsch Candidate for Congress CD-08: Director: Center for Building a Culture of Empathy:

Taurus New Moon Solar Eclipse, April 30, 2022

Wendy Cicchetti

Taurus New Moon Solar Eclipse

The solar eclipse in Taurus is partial, so we won’t experience entire darkness. Symbolically, this is the equivalent of missing some details of a process or event through the blink of an eye. Only time will tell whether or not it will make a difference. For a clue, we can look to a Taurean theme, such as finances — many people tend to find financial paperwork tiresome to read through, and there could be a reminder soon if you have avoided looking at letters or emails. There may not be an urgency, but a benefit to awareness for the not-too-distant future.

The Taurus eclipse plants us on terra firma or redirects a solid course if we wandered off our earthly path. In our materialistic society, it’s become commonplace to engage with the earthy, practical side of life. We have basic needs, which require money to maintain, or our survival is threatened — or comforts severely reduced. This may be unnatural for us, but we must learn to survive in pragmatic ways — a notion taken up in James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code (Bantam, 1997), in which he explains his “Acorn” theory. He turns the symbol typically used for human life — the tree — upsidedown, so his model “has its roots in heaven and imagines a gradual descent downwards toward human affairs.”

If we struggle to keep to everything that practical living demands, then maybe we can take inspiration from Uranus, conjunct the Moon and Sun, to see our situation afresh. Uranus in Taurus may present a breakthrough, cracking open the ground we thought we knew. Perhaps we can’t toe the line as society expects, but we can find another way. Uranus relates to everything unique and unconventional, so it may be a weird or zany method! Pretty much anything goes.

If we turn this around, we could be more allowing towards someone acting out of character. Perhaps that person is going through an experimental phase, or just needs to get through something to reach a better place. The Moon conjunct Uranus can seem, or feel, like the odd one out. So, it makes sense to make room for any eccentric or oddball behavior, perhaps looking to celebrate the freshness of any new perspective on offer. But if accommodating someone playing outside the rules would be unfair to others, it might be appropriate to offer a reminder of such rules.

The general feeling of this lunation seems energetic and positive, not least underlined by a sextile to Mars in Pisces. We can delight in a surge of fresh input and let ourselves enjoy being energized. We can be braver with our feelings, perhaps voicing our needs and preferences more easily. Mars emphasizes initiatives and has an especially creative flow in Pisces, so we may also feel more confident in putting forward suggestions for the future.

Venus, also in Pisces, happens to be very closely conjunct Jupiter — within two minutes of orb. These two planets are considered the benefics — planets that could convey good fortune and blessings your way or tend to show a happy result. From our modern viewpoint, we see things less clearly defined: anyone knows that too much of a good thing can be a problem, for example.

But ancient symbols hold a certain resonance, and many astrologers seeing Jupiter and Venus together will feel a warm glow! Jupiter happens to co-rule Pisces, which, from traditional astrology, adds a certain strength and dignity to the planet. The phrase “unable to put a foot wrong” seems appropriate here, especially since Pisces rules the feet. There may well be a scenario opening in which things just seem to go right, no matter what we choose to do or say. Even if we think we’ve made a gaffe, it turns out to be easily accommodated — or any solution we offer is well received. Neptune tags along nicely with Venus and Jupiter, also “happy” in its own sign — what’s not to like!

This article is from the Mountain Astrologer written by Diana McMahon Collis

What Science Tells us about Race and Racism

The Royal Institution You can also download this talk as a podcast. Listen here, or search Ri Science Podcast in your app of choice:… An evidence-based discussion of the controversial topic of race, as science sees it. Do races even exist, biologically? Adam Rutherford hosts a panel of experts, including Kenan Malik, Aoife McLysaght and Heidi Mirza. Subscribe for regular science videos: Heidi Mirza is Professor of Race, Faith & Culture at the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths University. Her work focuses on gender, race, faith and culture using postcolonial and black feminist theoretical frameworks. Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. His latest book is ‘The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics.’ He also writes on his blog Pandaemonium, which welcomes debate from anyone. Aoife McLysaght is a professor in the Molecular Evolution Lab at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin. She also spends a lot of time communicating her work to the public. Watch Aoife’s discourse:… and short films: The Ri is on Twitter: and Facebook: and Tumblr: Our editorial policy:… Subscribe for the latest science videos:

Tainted love

Tainted love | Aeon

Love is both a wonderful thing and a cunning evolutionary trick to control us. A dangerous cocktail in the wrong handsUntitled (Portrait of a Man and a Woman) (1851), daguerreotype, United States. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Anna Machin is an evolutionary anthropologist, writer and broadcaster whose work has appeared in the New Scientist and The Guardian, among others. She is the author of The Life of Dad: The Making of the Modern Father (2018) and Why We Love: The New Science Behind our Closest Relationships (2022). She lives in Oxford.

Edited by Pam Weintraub

29 April 2022 (

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We can all agree that, on balance, and taking everything into account, love is a wonderful thing. For many, it is the point of life. I have spent more than a decade researching the science behind human love and, rather than becoming immune to its charms, I am increasingly in awe of its complexity and its importance to us. It infiltrates every fibre of our being and every aspect of our daily lives. It is the most important factor in our mental and physical health, our longevity and our life satisfaction. And regardless of who the object of our love is – lover or friend, dog or god – these effects are largely underpinned, in the first instance, by the set of addictive neurochemicals supporting the bonds we create: oxytocin, dopamine, beta-endorphin and serotonin.

This suite of chemicals makes us feel euphoric and calm, they draw us towards those we love, and reward us for investing in our relationships, even when the going gets tough. Love feels wonderful but ultimately it is a form of biological bribery, a cunning evolutionary trick to make sure we cooperate and those all-important genes continue down the generations. The joy it brings is wonderful but is merely a side-effect. Its goal is to ensure our survival, and for this reason happiness is not always its end point. Alongside its joys, there exists a dark side.

Love is ultimately about control. It’s about using chemical bribery to make sure we stick around, cooperate and invest in each other, and particularly in the survival-critical relationships we have with our lovers, children and close friends. This is an evolutionary control of which we are hardly aware, and it brings many positive benefits.

But the addictive nature of these chemicals, and our visceral need for them, means that love also has a dark side. It can be used as a tool of exploitation, manipulation and abuse. Indeed, in part what may separate human love from the love experienced by other animals is that we can use love to manipulate and control others. Our desire to believe in the fairy tale means we rarely acknowledge the undercurrents but, as a scholar of love, I would be negligent if I did not consider it. Arguably our greatest and most intense life experience can be used against us, sometimes leading us to continue relationships with negative consequences in direct opposition to our survival.

We are all experts in love. The science I write about is always grounded in the lived experience of my subjects whose thoughts I collect as keenly as their empirical data. It might be the voice of the new father as he describes holding his firstborn, or the Catholic nun explaining how she works to maintain her relationship with God, or the aromantic detailing what it’s like living in a world apparently obsessed with the romantic love that they do not feel. I begin every interview in the same way, by asking what they think love is. Their answers are often surprising, always illuminating and invariably positive, and remind me that not all the answers to what love is can be found on the scanner screen or in the lab. But I will also ask them to consider whether love can ever be negative. The vast majority say no for, if love has a darker side, it is not love, and this is an interesting point to contemplate. But if they do acknowledge the possibility of love having a less sunny side, their go-to example is jealousy.

Jealousy is an emotion and, as with all emotions, it evolved to protect us, to alert us to a potential benefit or threat. It works its magic at three levels: the emotional, the cognitive and the behavioural. Physiology also throws its hat into the ring making you feel nauseous, faint or flushed. When we feel jealousy, it is generally urging us to do one of three things: to cut off the rival, to prevent our partner’s defection by redoubling our efforts, or to cut our losses and leave the relationship. All have evolved to make sure we balance the costs and benefits of the relationship. Investing time, energy and reproductive effort in the wrong partner is seriously damaging to your reproductive legacy and chances of survival. But what do we perceive to be a jealousy-inducing threat? The answer very much depends on your gender.

Men and women experience jealousy with the same intensity. However, there is a stark difference when it comes to what causes each to be jealous. One of the pioneers of human mating research is the American evolutionary psychologist David Buss and, in his book The Evolution of Desire (1994), he details numerous experiments that have highlighted this gender difference. In one study, in which subjects were asked to read different scenarios detailing incidences of sexual and emotional infidelity, 83 per cent of women found the emotional scenario the most jealousy-inducing, whereas only 40 per cent of men found this to be of concern. In contrast, 60 per cent of men found sexual infidelity difficult to deal with, compared with a significantly smaller percentage of women: 17 per cent.

Men also feel a much more extreme physiological response to sexual infidelity than women do. Hooking them up to monitors that measure skin conductance, muscle contraction and heartrate shows that men experience significant increases in heartrate, sweating and frowning when confronted with sexual infidelity, but the monitor readouts hardly flicker if their partner has become emotionally involved with a rival.

The reason for this difference sits with the different resources that men and women bring to the mating game. Broadly, men bring their resources and protection; women bring their womb. If a woman is sexually unfaithful and becomes pregnant with another man’s child, she has withdrawn the opportunity from her partner to father a child with her for at least nine months. Hence, he is the most concerned about sexual infidelity. In contrast, women are more concerned about emotional infidelity because this suggests that, if their partner does make a rival pregnant and becomes emotionally involved with her, his partner risks having to share his protection and resources with another, meaning that her children receive less of the pie.

To understand someone’s emotional needs means you can use that intelligence to control them

Jealousy is an evolved response to threats to our reproductive success and survival – of self, children and genes. In many cases, it is of positive benefit to those who experience it as it shines a light on the threat and enables us to decide what is best. But in some cases, jealousy gets out of hand.

Emotional intelligence sits at the core of healthy relationships. To truly deliver the benefits of the relationship to our partner, we must understand and meet their emotional needs as they must understand and meet ours. But, as with love, this skill has a darker side because to understand someone’s emotional needs presents the possibility that you can use that intelligence to control them. While we may all admit to using this skill for the wrong reasons every now and again – perhaps to get that sofa we desire or the holiday destination we prefer – for some, it is their go-to mechanism where relationships are concerned.

The most adept proponents of this skill are those who possess the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianismpsychopathy and narcissism. The first relies on using emotional intelligence to manipulate others, the second to toy with other’s feelings, and the third to denigrate others with the aim of glorifying oneself. For these people, characterised by exploitative, manipulative and callous personalities, emotional intelligence is the route to a set of mate-retention behaviours that certainly meet their goals but are less than beneficial to those whom they profess to love. Indeed, research has shown that a relationship with such a person leaves you open to a significantly greater risk that your love will be returned with abuse.

In 2018, the psychologist Razieh Chegeni and her team set out to explore whether a link existed between the Dark Triad and relationship abuse. Participants were identified as having the Dark Triad personality by expressing their degree of agreement with statements such as ‘I tend to want others to admire me’ (narcissism), ‘I tend to be unconcerned with the morality of my actions’ (psychopathy) and ‘I tend to exploit others to my own end’ (Machiavellianism). They then had to indicate to what extent they used a range of mate-retention behaviours, including ‘snooped through my partner’s personal belongings’, ‘talked to another man/woman at a party to make my partner jealous’, ‘bought my partner an expensive gift’ and ‘slapped a man who made a pass at my partner’.

The results were clear. Having a Dark Triad personality, whether you were a man or a woman, significantly increased the likelihood that ‘cost-inflicting mate-retention behaviours’ were your go-to mechanism when trying to retain your partner. These are behaviours that level an emotional, physical, practical and/or psychological cost on the partner such as physical or emotional abuse, coercive control or controlling access to food or money. Interestingly, however, these individuals did not employ this tactic all the time. There was nuance in their behaviour. Costly behaviours were peppered with rare incidences of gift giving or caretaking, so-called beneficial mate-retention behaviours. Why? Because the unpredictability of their behaviour caused psychological destabilisation in their partner and enabled them to assert further control through a practice we now identify as gaslighting.

The question remains – if these people are so destructive, why does their personality type persist in our population? Because, while their behaviour may harm those who are unfortunate enough to be close to them, they themselves must gain some survival advantage, which means that their traits persist in the population. It is true that no trait can be said to be 100 per cent beneficial, and here is a perfect example of where evolution is truly working at cross purposes.

Not all Dark Triad personalities are abusers but the presence of abuse within our closest relationships is a very real phenomenon, the understanding of which continues to evolve and grow. Whereas we might have once imagined an abuser as someone who controlled their partner with their fists, we are now aware that abuse comes in many guises including emotional, psychological, reproductive and financial.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) questioned both men and women in the United States about the incidences of domestic violence they had experienced in their lifetime. Looking at severe physical abuse alone – which means being punched, slammed, kicked, burned, choked, beaten or attacked with a weapon – one in five women and one in seven men reported at least one incidence in their lifetime. If we consider emotional abuse, then the statistics for men and women are closer – more than 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

It is hard to imagine that, having experienced such a litany of abuse, anyone could believe that love remained within their relationship. But here the power of the lived experience, of allowing everyone to have their ideas about love becomes clearer. Because, while we have many scientific tools to explore love objectively, at the end of the day, there is always an element of our experience of love that is subjective, that another cannot touch. This is no more powerfully evidenced than by the testimony of those who have experienced intimate partner violence. In 2013, three mental health nurses, led by Marilyn Smith in West Virginia, explored what love meant to 19 women who were experiencing, or had experienced, intimate partner violence. For them, this kind of abuse included, but was not limited to, ‘slapping, intimidation, shaming, forced intercourse, isolation, monitoring behaviours, restricting access to healthcare, opposing or interfering with school or employment, and making decisions concerning contraception, pregnancy, and elective abortion’.

Our cultural ideas of romantic love have a role to play in trapping women in abusive relationships

It was clear from the transcripts that all the women knew what love wasn’t: being hurt and fearful, being controlled and having a lack of trust and a lack of support or concern for their welfare. And it was clear that they all knew what love should be: built on a foundation of respect and understanding, of support and encouragement, of commitment, loyalty and trust. But despite this clear understanding of the stark difference between the ideal and their reality, many of these women still believed that love existed within their relationship. Some hoped the power of their love would change the behaviour of their partner, others said their sense of attachment made them stay. Some feared losing love, however flawed; and, if they left, might they not land in a relationship where their treatment was even worse? A lot of the time, cultural messaging had reinforced strongly held beliefs about the supremacy of the nuclear family, making victims reluctant to leave in case they ultimately harmed their children’s life chances. While it can be hard to understand these arguments – surely a non-nuclear setup is preferable to the harm inflicted on a child by the observation of intimate partner abuse – I strongly believe that this population has as much right to their definition and experience of love as any of us.

In fact, the cultural messages we hear about romantic love – from the media, religion, parents and family – not only potentially trap us in ‘ideal’ family units: they may also play a role in our susceptibility to experiencing intimate partner abuse. This view of reproductive love, once confined to Western culture, is now the predominant narrative globally. From a young age, we speak of ‘the one’, we consume stories of young people finding love against all the odds, of sacrifice, of being consumed. It is arguable that these narratives are unhelpful generally as the reality, while wonderful, is considerably more complex, involving light and shade. But research has shown that these stories may have more significant consequences when we consider their role in intimate partner abuse.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of partner abuse against women in the world. In their 2017 paper, Shakila Singh and Thembeka Myende explored the role of resilience in female students at risk of abuse, which is prevalent at a high rate on South African university campuses. Their paper ranges widely over the role of resilience in resisting and surviving partner abuse, but what is of interest to me is the 15 women’s ideas about how our cultural ideas of romantic love have a role to play in trapping women in abusive relationships. These women’s arguments are powerful and made me rethink the fairy-tale. Singh and Myende point to the romantic idea that love overcomes all obstacles and must be maintained at all costs, even when abuse makes these costs life-threateningly high. Or the idea that love is about losing control, being swept off your feet, having no say in who you fall for, even if they turn out to be an abuser. Or that lovers protect each other, fight for each other to the end, even if the person who is being protected, usually from the authorities, is violent or coercive. Or the belief that love is blind and we are incapable of seeing our partner’s faults, despite them often being glaringly obvious to anyone outside the relationship.

It is these cultural ideas about romantic love, the women argue, that lead to the erosion of a woman’s power to leave or entirely avoid an abusive partner. Add these ideas to the powerful physiological and psychological need we have for love, and you leave an open goal for the abuser.

Love is the focus of so much science, philosophy and literary rumination because we struggle to define it, to predict its next move. Thanks to our biology and the reproductive mandate of evolution, love has long controlled us. But what if we could control love?

What if a magic potion existed that could induce us, or another, to fall in love or even wipe away the memories of a failed relationship? It is a quest as ancient as the first writings 5,000 years ago and the focus of many literary endeavours, including Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – who can forget Titania’s love for the ass-headed Bottom – and Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde. Even in a world where science has largely usurped magic, type ‘love potions’ into Google and the first two questions are: ‘How do you make a love potion?’ and ‘Do love potions actually work?’

But today we know enough about the chemistry of love for the elixir to be within our grasp. And we don’t have to look very far for our first candidate: synthetic oxytocin, used right now as an induction drug in labour. We know from extensive research in social neuroscience that artificial oxytocin also increases prosociality, trust and cooperation. Squirt it up the nose of new parents and it increases positive parenting behaviours. Oxytocin, as released by the brain when we are attracted to someone, is vital for the first stages of love because it quiets the fear centre of your brain and lowers your inhibitions to forming new relationships. Would a squirt up the nose do the same before you head out on a Saturday night?

The other possibility is MDMA or ecstasy, which mimics the neurochemical of long-term love, beta-endorphin. Recreational users of ecstasy report that it makes them feel boundless love for their fellow clubbers and increases their empathy. Researchers in the US have reported encouraging results when MDMA was used in marriage therapy to increase empathy, allowing participants to gain further insight into each other’s needs and find common ground.

Love drugs could end up being yet another form of abuse

Both of these sound like promising candidates but there are still issues to iron out and ethical discussions to have. How effective they are is highly context dependent. Based on their genetics, some people do exactly what is predicted of them. Boundaries are lowered and love sensations abound. But for a significant minority, particularly when it comes to oxytocin, people do exactly the opposite of what we would expect. For some, a dose of oxytocin, while increasing bonds with those they perceive to be in their in-group, increases feelings of ethnocentrism – racism – toward the out-group.

MDMA has other issues. For some people, it simply does not work. But the bigger problem is that the effects endure only while usage continues; anecdotal evidence suggests that, if you stop, the feelings of love and empathy disappear. This raises questions of practicality and ethical issues surrounding power imbalance. If you commenced a relationship while taking MDMA, would you have to continue? What if you were in a relationship with someone who had taken MDMA and you didn’t know? What would happen if they stopped? And could someone be induced to take MDMA against their will?

The ethical conversation around love drugs is complex. On one side are those who argue that taking a love drug is no more controversial than an antidepressant. Both alter your brain chemistry and, given the strong relationship between love and good mental and physical health, surely it is important that we use all the tools at our disposal to help people succeed? But maybe an anecdote from the book Love Is the Drug (2020) by Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu will give you pause. They describe SSRI prescriptions used to suppress the sexual urges of young male yeshiva students, to ensure that they comply with Jewish orthodox religious law – no sex before marriage, and definitely no homosexuality.

Could such drugs gain wider traction in repressive regimes as a weapon against what some perceive to be immoral forms of love? Remember that 71 countries still deem homosexuality to be illegal. It is not a massive leap of imagination to envisage the use of SSRIs to ‘cure’ people of this ‘affliction’. We only have to look at the continued existence of conversion therapy to see that this is a distinct possibility. Love drugs could end up being yet another form of abuse over which the individual has very little control.

Evolution saw fit to give us love to ensure we would continue to form and maintain the cooperative relationships that are our route to personal and, most crucially, genetic survival. It can be the source of euphoric happiness, calm contentment and much-needed security, but this is not its point. Love is merely the sweet treat handed to you by your babysitter to make sure the goal is achieved. Combine the ultimate evolutionary aim of love with our visceral need for it and the quick intelligence of our brains, and you have the recipe for a darker side to emerge. Some of this darker side is adaptive but, for those who experience it, it rarely ends well. At the very least there is pain – physical, psychological, financial – and, at the most, there is death, and the grief of those we leave behind.

Maybe it is time to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves about love because the danger on the horizon is not the dragon that needs to be slain by the knight to save the beautiful princess but the presence of some who mean to use its powers for their gain and our considerable loss. Like all of us, love is a complex beast: only by embracing it in its entirety do we truly understand it, and ourselves. And this means understanding its evolutionary story, the good and the bad.

Love and friendship Human evolution Sex and sexuality

Creation Spirituality with Matthew Fox

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove This video is a special release from the original Thinking Allowed series that ran on public television from 1986 until 2002. It was recorded in about 1989.  A concern with nature and humanity is primary to the social conventions of organized religion.  Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest and spiritual theologian, was director of the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College.  He is author of numerous books including The Coming of the Cosmic Christ and Original Blessing. Fox says that spirituality is a joyful response to life itself. Now you can watch all of the programs from the original Thinking Allowed Video Collection, hosted by Jeffrey Mishlove. Subscribe to the new Streaming Channel ( and watch more than 350 programs now, with more, previously unreleased titles added weekly. New!! Free month of the classic Thinking Allowed streaming channel for New Thinking Allowed subscribers only. Use code THINKFREELY.

Book Review: Judaism Without Tribalism

reviewed by Sarah Bowen

With precision derived from decades of immersive experience and devoted thought, Rabbi Rami Shapiro investigates the diverse branches of Judaism to reveal a creative path that is open and accessible to anyone.

In many ways, Judaism Without Tribalism is a love letter, illuminating how to remain rooted in one’s religious identity even when it is imperfect. With passion, Shapiro explains the core Jewish values of returning to one’s true nature as a manifestation of divinity (teshuvah) and helping repair the world to a more compassionate and sacred state (tikkun). He breaks down seemingly complex traditions into meaningful practices for developing spiritual connections and living in a way that eschews self-centeredness.

In other ways, Judaism Without Tribalism is an account book and sharp critique of the dysfunction and argumentation within Jewish denominations that prevents Jews from living into these two core values and precludes non-Jews from discovering the beauty within the tradition.

With his characteristic sharp wit and irreverence, Shapiro outlines the strengths and pitfalls of religious thought in general. He then chronicles the complex history of Jewish people, describes the essential elements of practicing a vibrant Judaism, and, in the end, makes a solid case for how everyone, whether Jewish or now, can benefit from engaging in teshuvah and tikkun.

Shapiro’s powerful manifesto is a timely and valuable roadmap for an age fraught with ideological division, hatred, and violence. Judaism Without Tribalism offers contemplative thought-starters and practical advice for how to invent a better future for all people in the human family.


Facing global crisis, we must use our collective imagination

Rebuilding from the region up

Patrick Mazza Apr 29, 2022 (

The pioneer as nemesis

Lewis Mumford’s archenemy was the pioneer who ravaged the North American continent as he moved across it.  A “land skinner” out for immediate profit, he would move on when soils or forests were exhausted, seeking new frontiers to exploit. Development of industries and cities followed much the same pattern. The pioneer, whether the homesteader or the land speculator, was the nemesis of the richly developed, settled human culture Mumford sought to foster throughout his work as one of the 20th century’s great public intellectuals.

When he began his writing career in the 1920s and 30s, Mumford was in sharp variance with the general view of pioneer as hero. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner had lionized the pioneer in his 1893 essay, one of the most influential in U.S. history, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.”  Turner was still alive in Mumford’s early writing days, living until 1932. In Turner’s analysis, the frontier created the spirit of democratic individualism and expansive opportunity that was the essence of the U.S., and the pioneer was its progenitor.  Today we have a far more nuanced view of the pioneer.  Aware of the history of native displacement and the environmental destruction that accompanied the settlement of the U.S., the general view is in many ways closer to Mumford’s than Turner’s.

Mumford placed the U.S. pioneer in the context of the half-millennium of European expansion over the entire earth. “ . . . the great era of exploration and colonization, which opened in the sixteenth century, introduced a period of terrestrial neglect. In the act of seizing all the habitable parts of the earth, the colonists of Africa and the Americas systematically misused and neglected their possession; First, perhaps, out of ignorance, but no less because, even when better knowledge existed, an imperious government, a rapacious economic corporation or individual, would set no bounds to greed or to momentary needs.”[1]

This series has been detailing how Mumford saw a regional framework underlaying civilization, one that was obscured and overwhelmed by the rise of nation-states and capitalism in this era of expansion. Mumford posed a return to the region as a place to begin repairing the damage done.

“Today the era of exploration has come to an end . . . the era of the callous pioneer, who laid waste to a particular area, looted it natural resources, and moved on, is over: there is no place left to move. We have reached the end of our journey, and in the main, we must retrace our steps, and, region by region, learn to do intelligently and co-operatively what we hitherto did in such disregard for the elementary decencies of life. The grasp of the region as a dynamic social reality is the first step . . . “[2]

Regions as the ground for rebuilding

Unfortunately, Mumford’s insights were well in advance of his time. Today we face a set of crises brought on by the continued drive to unlimited expansion, and which now threaten the very future of humanity. The headlines are climate disruption created by burning fossil fuels and disrupting forests and soils, and intensified great power conflict as non-western powers emerge. In the backdrop are increased wealth inequality, along with a deterioration of democratic institutions, and a general decline of natural ecosystems. Even as challenges demand response, economic and political power elites insulated from democratic control continue to push the models through which they succeeded, just as those models are having increasingly destructive effects. This reflects the exact situation Arnold Toynbee called out in his analysis of why civilizations fall.

If we had heeded Mumford’s words, and created a more co-operative society that respected limits, we would not be facing the crises we do today. Now, as we are driven to conceive systemic change in order to cope with those crises, we should recall Mumford’s insights on regionalism as a way to rebuild human society. That is what this series has intended.  

In many ways, Mumford was calling for a different system of governance, the creation of institutions at the regional scale that would be organized by a system of democratic regional planning. As discussed in the last post, while these may seem utopian, his concepts offer a guidepost to measure the present day and guide progress.

Mumford posed a redrawing of political boundaries to reflect regional realities. “No existing state or administrative lines are sacred or unalterable . . . it would be absurd to imagine that the temporary forms achieved during the era of extreme instability and rapid transition were permanent ones . . . what has been created by man in the past can be re-defined and re-created in the interests of a more effective communal life. Hence local administrative boundaries or national boundaries that interrupt the more fundamental configurations of regions, or the grouping of regional into inter-regional areas or provinces, must be progressively diminished: eventually wiped out. That means the devolution of political power and the building up of local centers of initiative and control . . . “[3]

The work of collective imagination

But, more fundamentally than the political, Mumford saws the creation of regions as an act of collective imagination. “The region, no less than the city, is a collective work of art.”[4] In reclaiming the regional framework of civilization, stirring our collective imaginations is the where we can begin.

Mumford counterposed the region to nationalism, a pernicious force in his day as much as in ours. “ . . . ‘nationalism’ is an attempt to make the laws and customs and beliefs of a single region or city do duty for the varied expressions of a multitude of other regions. To the extent that such a unity does not grow out of spontaneous allegiances or natural affiliations, it must be held together by deliberate effort: indoctrination in the school, propaganda in the press, restrictive laws, extirpation of rival dialects and languages, either by mockery or mandate, suppression of the customs and privileges of minorities.”[5]

This set up a hierarchical “pyramid of communities whose apex and central point was the capital city,” and a hierarchy among states with one having the central position. The contrast is social relativity in which “no one state can claim pre-eminence, and no one position within the community is central. Every unit and every activity, no matter how small, no matter how apparently insignificant, has a fundamental importance  . . .”[6]

Today, we live in a hyper-centralized world where our imaginations are captured by mass media institutions centered in a few cities. In the U.S., it’s New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and one might add major tech platforms in the Bay Area and Seattle. It is astounding how, in the creation of national realities, major centers away from the coasts play only a marginal role. Media plays a supporting role in orienting us to national political institutions centered in the Northeast.

At the same time, it is clear that both media and national political institutions are increasingly failing to address the huge issues facing us. Again, climate is the poster. But one might point out that holds for the range of mounting crises. The apex of the pyramid is failing us. Unfortunately, prospects are limited for situations to get better, and the likely track is for them to become worse. So reclaiming a regional framework, where democratic possibilities can still be realized, is crucial.

The region as classroom for democracy

Mumford saw great importance in the education system, to make use of local communities and regions as a classroom and laboratory.  He conceived of engagement with the region through concrete experiences, and the development of comprehensive regional surveys as the practical means. Such common knowledge would provide a basis for regional political life as a daily engagement and not the “monopoly of remote specialists.”[7]  “All rational politics must begin with the concrete facts of regional life, not as they appear to the specialist, but as they appear first of all to those who live in the region.”[8]

Mumford contrasted this approach with the extreme specialization of knowledge already evident in his time, and even more extreme now. “  . . the amount of specialized knowledge, often accurate, often extremely refined, has far outstripped our capacity to make use of it as part of a consistent whole.” The way to integrate specialized knowledge was “starting from the common whole – a region, its activities, its people, its configuration, it’s total life – and relating each further achievement in specialized knowledge to this cluster images and experiences.” [9]

Such an approach to knowledge and education would give people a sense of organic relationships without which they would become more subject to external manipulation.  “. . . our metropolitan populations throughout the world are both witless and wantless: true cannon-fodder, potential serfs for a new totalitarian feudalism, people whose imaginative lives are satiated by shadows . . . “[10] These words ring at least as true today as when Mumford wrote them in the 1930s.

Concentrated power leads to collapse

We should pay heed to some later words on where a society which loses the organic relationships of community and place will go in its search for limitless expansion and power. Overconcentration of power at the center “repeatedly marked the last stage in the classic cycle of civilization,” Mumford wrote in his 1961 The City in History. “There is surely no evidence of stability in a civilization that has, within forty years, undergone two world wars and prematurely terminated the lives of some sixty million people . . . “[11]  “ . . . even in cultures far less committed to quantitative growth than our own, there comes a point where the tumorous organ will destroy the organism at whose expense it has reached such swollen dimensions.”[12]

Concentrated centers of power “encase the organic, many-sided life of the community in petrified and overspecialized forms” that prevent adaptation to new circumstances.[13]  This thought is highly resonant with the analysis Joseph Tainter developed in his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Overviewing the Western Roman Empire, and the civilizations of the Maya and Anazasi, Tainter theorized that societies develop increasingly complex and specialized structures to solve problems, until they overrun the energy required to maintain them, causing their collapse. The Mayans were building their biggest pyramids, and the Anasazi their largest pueblos, just before they collapsed. If this seems distant from the present, consider that the world’s two tallest skyscrapers, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and the Shanghai Tower, sit on land likely to be overtaked by rising seas in the next century.

In this perspective, Mumford’s call to re-ground education, political life and collective imagination in the region, to reclaim these vital aspects from overspecialized and overconcentrated centers of power, becomes a vital response to civilizational crisis. If creating actual new forms of political governance seems distant, the work of collective imagination and pursuit of knowledge lays a groundwork for the political and cultural reconstruction whose need will become increasingly evident.  

What may seem impossible . . .

Mumford became less optimistic through his life, as he saw the growth of technological civilization tracking on some of his worst case scenarios. But in concluding The City In History, he offered a hope we should all take to heart. “ . . . happily life has one predictable attribute: It is full of surprises. At the last moment – and our generation may be close to the last moment – the purposes and projects that will redeem our present aimless dynamism may gain the upper hand. When that happens, obstacles that now seem insuperable will melt away, . . . vast sums of money and energy  . . . will be released for the recultivation of the earth and the rebuilding of cities  . . . If once the sterile dreams and sadistic nightmares that obsess the ruling elite are vanquished, there will be such a release of human vitality as will make the Renascence seem almost a stillbirth.”[14]

Indeed, at a moment when so much is headed down the wrong track, and the human future itself is in question, we must realize that good surprises are indeed possible, and that there are possibilities to turn this around. Reclaiming our collective imagination to envision alternatives is vital to this process. Lewis Mumford pointed us to the region as a ground on which we could begin the work of re-imagining. His regionalist approach should inform our efforts as we seek to overcome our civilizational crisis and build a better world.  

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May 2022 Astrology Forecast

The Astrology Podcast A look ahead at the astrology of May 2022, with astrologers Chris Brennan, Austin Coppock, and special guest co-host Steph Koyfman. The astrology of May features the first part of Mercury retrograde, beginning in Gemini on May 10 and entering Taurus almost two weeks later. There is also a solar eclipse in Taurus on April 30 and a lunar eclipse in Scorpio on May 16, starting the new eclipse season with the nodes on the Taurus/Scorpio axis until 2023. There’s a tonal change as Venus, Mars, and Jupiter all move into Aries over the course of May, away from the mutable energy of Pisces. Late in the month, there is a New Moon in Gemini, although since it occurs on the second to last day of the month we are going to save most of that discussion for the next forecast. We open the episode by talking about recent world events and how the astrology has played over the past four weeks since our last forecast. This is episode 349 of the podcast:… The 11th House Emerging Astrologers Summit… About the Astrologers https://ChrisBrennanAstrologer.comhttps://AustinCoppock.com Patreon Auspicious Date for May The most auspicious astrological date for May is: May 26, 2022 at 3:00 AM (Aries rising). For more lucky dates in April see our electional astrology podcast:… For good dates later in the year see our 2022 Year Ahead Electional Astrology Report:… Please be sure to like and subscribe! #TheAstrologyPodcast Timestamps: 00:00:00 Intro 00:00:30 Welcome Steph 00:02:14 March recap 00:03:05 Will Smith slap 00:07:40 Venus besiegement 00:11:32 Jupiter-Neptune in Pisces stories 00:21:30 Mars-Saturn in Aquarius and Uranus in Taurus stories 00:30:37 May planetary alignments calendar 00:33:27 Taurus eclipse on April 30 00:43:20 Scorpio eclipse on May 15 00:55:45 Eclipses through the houses 01:03:45 Emerging Astrologers Summit 01:10:32 Aries themes in May 01:16:06 Venus and Jupiter enter Aries 01:18:47 Mars in Pisces 01:23:00 Mars-Neptune conjunction in Pisces 01:31:40 Venus in Aries 01:36:25 Jupiter in Aries 01:42:30 Mars in Aries 01:45:45 Mercury retrograde in Gemini/Taurus 01:52:00 Positive things about Mars in Aries 01:55:49 New Moon in Gemini 01:58:32 Electional chart for May 02:01:04 Steph’s website 02:02:20 Austin’s events, classes, Sphere & Sundry offering 02:05:13 Chris’ upcoming episodes and local astrology group 02:07:16 Closing remarks, patrons, and sponsors