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Greetings from Somerset England!

I’m blogging from a Sunrise Ranch Program here in England, Discovering the Magic of the King Arthur Legend—a 10-day trip visiting sacred sites related to the King Arthur legend. I am aware of how rare this opportunity is, in this crazy world, this chance to contemplate the archetypes of the Arthurian legends and also to experience places where deep spiritual vibrations have been accumulating for centuries.

A transcendental biologist, Rupert Sheldrake wrote a book titled The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, in which he proposed that all living beings and even places, exist in morphogenic fields of energy. He went so far as to suggest that holy or sacred places are endowed with a kind of invisible bubble of life energy from the prayers, meditations, intentions, and even strong emotions of people, animals, natural wonders (waterfalls, etc.) localized in a place. The more “famous” the spot, the more likely a larger buildup of energy.

I think many sensitive types who listen to the non-intellectual qualities of people and places have an intuition of these morphogenic fields. I’m reminded of the autobiography of Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, My Stroke of Insight. Jill is a Neurobiologist and an expert on the physiology of the human brain. She was conscious during a massive stroke that wiped out her left brain function in a huge blood clot. Her account of her experience of life living with only her right brain functioning is fascinating. During the stroke, she fell into what Zen practitioners might call satori, the sense of being part of everything with no sense of boundaries. When she was recovering she retrained her left brain to develop speech and writing skills to complete her autobiography. Why am I reminded of Dr. Bolte-Taylor? She recognized how sensitive she had become to peoples “energy” and in fact had to request that certain people not be allowed to visit her room during her recovery as she could not keep focus when they were in the room. She had similar experiences in busy public places where intense activity was taking place, where nobody made eye contact, and described how it created a kind of immediate PTSD in her psyche. She sought out gardens where she could heal her brain.

But I’m blogging about sacred sites in old England and not about the madness on the floor of the stock exchange. We recently stopped very early in the day at Stonehenge, a 4000-year old Neolithic stone ring built in Somerset England (in case you have been sleeping in a cave for 100 years and have never heard of Stonehenge). The site is now protected so that you cannot visit the actual stones. You can walk to within perhaps 15 or 20 feet of on the main set. For me, the actual PLACE was hauntingly special but this is not about my sense of the special nature of it but rather the response to the mystery of its existence which is the subject of a very well developed exhibition hall/museum on the site. The historical society (Heritage Society) in the U.K. spared no expense to create a wonderful collection of artifacts and “scientific” facts about the earthwork monuments and surrounding earthen mounds, humps and ditches. They have cataloged the food, their feasting, housing, clothing, tools and have done an excellent job of trying to explain how the prehistoric peoples might have lived. In the lobby you enter after leaving the exhibition and hearing all those facts, there is a floor to ceiling banner that admits that with all the knowledge gained by studying the remains of the site, it is still unclear what might have been its “MEANING”.

I put MEANING in upper case to reflect how it was put onto the banner. It was the most important word on the banner and it represented to me a few considerations.

First, the archeologists have many theories but honestly wish they knew why these enormous rocks were moved to this place over a period of 1000 years by perhaps thousands of people and then became a cultural magnet to peoples as far away as central Europe. Science wants to establish a fact that is illusive and frustrating, hence the upper case. Secondly, I sensed that the author of the banner had a longing to crack the true meaning of Stonehenge. In a purely secular society based upon material gain, the work expended to pile 30-ton rocks seems a fool-hardy and mad venture. It is the mystery which opens the door to other possibilities than merely our utilitarian view of profit and loss.

I thought about a recent bumper sticker, probably a quote from a wise person, but I know not who. It read: To find your unique gift is the meaning of life and learning how to give it is the purpose of life. Beautiful statement. When I was standing in that modern museum looking out the massive picture windows on a replica of the stick and daub huts that might have housed the builders, I had an epiphany.

What if the meaning of Stonehenge is exactly like the bumper sticker? Thousands of beings discovering how to represent their vision and gifts inside a greater mission.

I live in community, so thought about a possible perspective of Stonehenge.

Would it be so bad to live in a community with people with whom you share a common goal? Working and feasting, celebrating the changes of seasons, finding your inner gifts related to building a monument to those terrestrial and celestial patterns. Spending the time away from the “normal” cycles of culture, finding out how your contribution fits in the creation of the tools, the food, the healing, working with the earth. You have the privilege of spending your life in the dedication to a monument that will stand longer than the Pyramids! You are contributing your efforts toward a place that will inspire and confuse and blow-the-minds of people in countless generations. To me, that sounds like a life of meaning and purpose. This doesn’t sound like the work of enslaved primitive peoples creating some kind of fearful propitiation to the Gods.

So the blood sweat and tears of the builders, their healing prayers, the remnants of their devotions live on in the morphogenic field of Stonehenge. The crowd around the circle of stones on the day we visited was a united nation of ethnic origins, A multicolored rainbow of humanity, all in awe of something so much larger than their current lives. They felt it.

When the archeologist opens his or her mind and questions what it is to have a “meaning” or considers the magic of the movements of the spheres on this tiny planet with a paper thin atmosphere that has birthed a species that is capable of its own mass extinction, maybe for a second or so the field grows with a “knowing” that is not about “explaining” the world.


Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Officer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.

What’s Right with Buddy Movies?

In 2017, yet another wave of “buddy movies” were released. Although they did not follow the precise formula of the original “odd fellows on assignment” model—like Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey, Batman and Robin, the latest wave of films—Central Intelligence, Snatched and Baywatch, poured old wine into new bottles.

For many of my colleagues who teach media history, “buddy” films are low on the media food chain—just like horror films, “chick flicks” and soap operas. After all, we know in advance that the celluloid “buddies” will face a harrowing assignment, blame each other for their misfortune, walk away from each other, and finally, happily emerge with a stronger bond after tragedy is averted.

To seem novel, this formula has been given a few new wrinkles in 2017. In the case of Snatched, the buddies are a mother (Goldie Hawn) and daughter (Amy Schumer), while in the case of Baywatch they are employer vs. employee rival lifeguards, Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson. In Central Intelligence the buddies were anything but “buds:” Kevin Hart is totally forced into a dangerous “partnership” by distant and difficult classmate Dwayne Johnson.

While I cannot strongly recommend such films for much more than therapeutic entertainment, I think I can recommend what is behind them and explain why the formula—and the therapy—are so popular.

These films are about us. Who among us has not had challenging moments in a relationship? Who among us has not had an unlikely partnership develop due to work assignments, family ties, organizational roles, sports teamwork and life choices? Somehow, there is a universal longing to make these relationships heal and work and there is also a hope that such bonds will strengthen over time such that they become more genuine and fulfilling.

Still, I don’t think this consistent aspiration for reciprocally deep friendships is the only appeal of the endless parade of “buddy films.” There is also a “moment of truth” in each such film where the central characters realize that unless they fix something in themselves, they cannot fix anything broken in their relationship.

Ultimately, hard-hitting reality kicks the characters in the seat of the pants and there begins to be some kind of awakening. In Baywatch Efron and then Johnson is fired; in Snatched Schumer and Hawn are kidnapped; and in Central Intelligence, Hart is first traumatized and then humiliated.  What rings true to an audience is that one must first come to a state of self-realization before any broken relations can be mended.

In the terms of primal spirituality, until the primary bond between a human being and the Creator is restored, there is little hope for substantial secondary bonds with other human beings. Another way to say that is, unless one awakens to actual identity and restores the primary relationship upward, the secondary relationships with other people cannot be truly empowered, healed and blessed. Somehow audiences know this truth subconsciously, such that when a character melts, apologizes, or repents, we sense that the buddy tension will ease and a state of harmony will soon be restored.

While the scriptwriting of most buddy films is uneven, still the “moments of truth” seem recognizably about ourselves. Unless I change, how can I expect my partner to do so? If we live in a constant cacophony of finger-pointing and one-upmanship, no partnership will last, let alone deepen.

 

There are primary values being saluted in buddy films which go beyond the climactic moments of truth. The bottom line message is often that “an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness” as the legendary writer Elbert Hubbard (no relation to L. Ron Hubbard) put it on the cover of his famous essay, The Message to Garcia.   When the characters put loyalty ahead of self-promotion, teamwork above ego fulfillment, and deep honesty above pretentiousness, the friendship finds new levels of meaning. The audience, often filled with children and teens, learn all over again— albeit subconsciously—about the deeper meaning of such messages.

Hence the “buddy film,” no matter how predictable and over-the-top, ultimately reinforces pro-social values about friendship, fidelity and surrender. All the chase scenes, eye candy distractions, sight gags, potty-mouth humor, and trending romances are the “sugar which helps” this “medicine go down.

Behind all this is the longing to restore the primal bond, to come clean into mutually whole relationships and to let the moments of truth be one’s own. And there is also the great lesson that there is more to my partners than meets the eye. Once the awakening begins, the very person who seemed like my irritant now is revealed to be my educator.

So I cannot join those who put down the buddy film any more than I can join those who put down my buddies. There is always something more to learn from everyone, especially “with a little help from my friends.

-Tom Cooper


TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston).  Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others),  co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.

The Courage to be Yourself

 

Here’s a little truism—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life!

Simple, right? I think even the cynics among us might agree with that statement. How about, You are much more than your memories, thoughts, and feelings? Now, do I hear a little murmur of dissent out there?  Well, how about in here, when I contemplate this point myself?

I was trained to revere the scientific method, to be intellectually rigorous, accept no assumptions that were not proven. I was schooled to see personality as the result of a combination of organic and learned processes; you need chemical and electrical balances in your precious brain to properly record the learned patterns of your psychological history. Nature and Nurture. My studies repeatedly stated that our consciousness was conditional and conditioned; a formula of sorts where the left side of the equation—inputs—resulted in the right side of the equation—outputs.

I was taught that the basis of our existence as human beings was definable by measurable variables, from the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain to the results on psychological tests. The wisdom of the day held that we each had a measurable, though not predictable, personality which either fit into a socially defined norm or fell into psychopathology; in other words, you are sane or crazy.

There are visionaries in the field of psychology who hint that there is something better than norms that we might attain. Two terms for this concept of development are self-actualization and individuation. Both of those terms certainly harken to a sense that each person might navigate their thoughts, feelings, memories, traumas, interpersonal expressions, and behavioral patterns to a point where they are expressing themselves without being edited by defense mechanisms or projecting their internal demons to external reality. A person could be him or herself, a balance of ego and superego, flexible and nimble.

What if beyond self-actualization and individuation there was another type of BEING? Something that was not measurable by personality tests, that might even transcend time and space and break the laws of Newtonian physics if need be? The scientist in me just lifts his arms in the air and shrugs—this is the realm of religion, isn’t it? If you can’t run a study to prove something with a degree of validity, within the parameters of probability theory, well then, it just isn’t an accurate assertion. It is merely subjective, wishful thinking.

Probability theory is a topic of interest here. The Placebo effect is compared to measure the physical effectiveness of drugs—a drug must be more effective than our suggestible mind (wow there is a blog for you). In the same way, scientists compare an outcome to probability tables to validate that experimental results are significant. Probability tables are more accurate with larger sample sizes, if you have a study with a population of several thousand and 99.99% have a characteristic, that’s obviously a trend. Scientifically there is something “significant” happening in that situation and the study author might claim experimental proof. This is good science and worth intellectual consideration. However, let us keep in mind that what is proven is a hypothesis not a “fact.” We are not creating facts with experimental tests—rather, science is in the process of polishing, to a sheen, its educated guesses. Good information, if you truly understand the study limitations, but not worthy of religious faith. Yet we limit our world to the scientific facts every day. Talk about the realms of religion!

Let’s go back to my first assertion—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life.

Wow, you are a sample size of ONE! Nothing statistically significant there.

Yet, we all know that nobody else has lived our life path, nor can anybody else express what we have learned on that path—nobody but ourselves.

Why do we believe that subjective evidence is less true than statistical bogies? Do we buy into the numbers game played by science against chance? What if the sense of BEING has characteristics that are not captured in studies because we have no instrument to measure it? It then figuratively falls off the radar, it becomes anecdotal and fanciful. We might be tempted to disregard its validity or relinquish our intellectual rigor and get all touchy-feely.

I think we need to understand the personal validity of our own experience.

Where I live, at Sunrise Ranch, we have been discussing the courage to break out of our personal notion of a limited life—to be one’s SELF. Sometimes our limitations are drilled into us by the shame and doubt that inform our sense of self. These are the result of personal subconscious “experiments” with our world that did not go so well. Shame and doubt are short hand for “self-editing.”

In our living laboratory, in the present moment, we get to experience the unique responses we have to every sense object, thought moment, and feeling tone that we encounter in our world. This includes seeing our self-imposed limitations. We CAN learn to wake up and view our existence with appreciative inquiry, wanting to know more of who we really might “be.” AND the spark of brilliance in any observer is merely the tip of the iceberg of the BEING we have within us. There is such immeasurable information available to the creative mind!

We need the courage to look at the funny creature we have become—the sinner and the saint, the genius and the dolt—in the relativity of our life path. We need to listen to that deep truth within us that spawns enlightened thinking. We need the courage to see the uniqueness we are and not be dulled into the trance of accepting the theories of who we are as the realities of who we are.

Let’s keep testing our theories of consciousness, culture, quantum reality and the origin of the universe, with all the instruments that science can invent. But how about spending some time walking into our own undiscovered country within, looking at the unbounded creativity of that BEING which is a mere hint of our self-awareness? Let’s allow all the feelings that cannot be put into categories flood us and take us further into the mystery of the deeper sense of consciousness.

I want to continue to have the curiosity to explore myself, own myself with my own absurd and wondrous limitations, and my haunting possibility for limitlessness! The experiences of an awakened mind and heart are not theories.

 

-Atom Terpening

 


Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Offi cer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.


 

 

 

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