The Gods are Crazy — And So Are We: PART TWO — Nicole Sallak Anderson
(NOTE: this is the second of a two part series. I suggest you read PART ONE first)
“Inside the skull there is a place where the essences of creation play and mingle-
The ecstatic light of awareness and the awareness of that light.
The divine feminine and masculine sport with one another in that place.
The light of their love-play illumines all space.
Rest in that light ever present, and gradually awaken to the steady joy of that which is everywhere.”
~ The Radiance Sutras, a translation of the Vinjnana Bhairava Tantra by Lorin Roche, PhD
Life on Earth is turbulent. The planet itself is prone to disaster-wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, poisonous snakes and plants-the list of ways for life to end tragically is naturally endless. As a result, I imagine every generation thinks they live in the most turbulent times. Yet, each technological age requires something different from us, both physically and mentally. As we already discussed in Part One, an advancement in human communication technologies often leads to a level of madness within society until our brains rewire themselves to process said technology, after which, our descendants often enjoy huge benefits.
At the moment though, we’re in the madness stage. Turn on the news, open Facebook or Twitter, or just listen to the talk around the table at a restaurant, and you’ll see this is true.
In his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, neurosurgeon Leonard Shlain suggests that we temper the excessive development of our left brain during times of communications advancements with activities that stimulate the right brain-such as images, painting, movement, exercise, making love, poetry, metaphor, archetypes, dreaming, stillness, nurturing, and love. To do this requires a certain pulling back from left brain activities as well as admitting that all of this is necessary not only for our personal wellbeing, but for the entire society. This then, is the work of our times. I can’t claim to have the exact recipe for everyone. I give you the following suggestions as starting points for your own exploration. All I can ask is that you consider the possibility that your modern mind has a need for balance and seek the solutions that work for you.
Admit there’s a vulnerability within every mind. Not just in “others” but yours as well. When you watch the latest #KarensGoneWild video on Twitter and see a grown woman having a tantrum in the Target because she won’t wear a mask, don’t think she’s the only one with the problem. Instead realize we’re all vulnerable to the anger within us because we’re all adjusting to a new form of communication. Ask yourself if there’s anything you hate passionately, or think is completely true to the point of hating those who don’t agree with you, and from there begin the work of balancing your own life between your iPhone brain and your human community.
Unplug from social media. In his book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, author and father of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, makes the perfect argument to get off Facebook and the like by stating, “Social media is making you into an asshole.” Again, you may not believe it. You many think only those others are assholes, not you. Think again. Yes, social media is important for many creatives trying to make a living, especially during the pandemic when all of us are stuck at home. Even so, earlier this summer, I began the complicated process of removing myself from my social media accounts. I had to admit that while Facebook and Twitter have connected me to readers and my publisher, the total effect hasn’t been worth the mental toll it was taking on me. By mid-July 2020, I was using Facebook and Twitter rarely and only to share my latest work, when disaster struck and a wildfire caused by lightning burned not only my own home, but every home around it. What was once a forest paradise is now ash and ruin. Ironically, it was in this moment that I returned to Facebook as a means to share updates on my situation with my family and friends as well as connect with my neighbors as we began the rebuild process. This is the side of social media that is wonderful-it is a communications service though, NOT A NEWS SERVICE. Unable to vet every source that came into my Newsfeed, I began to snooze anyone who posted anything about the election and covid-19. In my state of trauma, I couldn’t put in the mental efforts needed to discern truth from myth from downright foolishness. Four months later, I’ll be moving off social media once again. Even the rebuilding aspect is veering into the absurd; many posts are fantastical speculations about insurance, FEMA, and the real estate market now that 900+ homes are gone. Does losing one’s home and belongings to eco-disaster suck? Yes. Is there also beauty? Yes. I’ve found that social media focuses a lot on the suck and not so much on the beauty. Thus, the time to build that old-fashioned 1990’s email list has come. If you want to know what’s going on in my life and work, follow this blog, I’ll send a newsletter once a month to let you know if I have something new for you. Comment via the blog page, not social media. Connect with me via email or text or better yet, in person. Let us interact in the beauty of the struggle, even if it’s painful. There’s something powerful when we find the space to be with life as it is, not as we wish it would be.
Spend more time looking at images. Shlain’s theory rests on the concept that imagery stimulates the right brain and is a completely different means to receive information than via the word. He writes, “Since WWII, the technologies of information transfer have transformed the foundations of world culture and, in the process, helped it balance the masculine and feminine. Iconic information proliferating through the use of television, computers, photocopiers, and the Internet have enhanced, and will continue to enhance, the positions in society of images, women’s rights, and the Goddess.” For example, the suffrage and worker’s rights movements, as well as the end of slavery in America, followed on the heels of the advent of the photograph. Watching the mushroom cloud destroy Hiroshima on their TVs, woke humanity up to the hell of war and the first anti-war movement began. Earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, led to the launch of the environmental movement. This is why I’m staying on Instagram and perhaps why our younger generations are demanding environmental and economic justice-they Snap and Tiktok while the older generations digest Facebook, Twitter, and newsfeeds by the gigabyte. However, it must be noted that imagery isn’t harmless and an overstimulated right brain can lead to madness as well. The phenomena known as YouTube radicalization can be considered the modern Nazi movement for good reason.
Unplug Once a Week. It’s no coincidence that Leonard Shlain’s daughter, Tiffany Shlain, has founded the 24/6 movement. Her book of the same name details something she calls her “Tech Shabbat.” From sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, her family unplugs completely from technology. This act first began as her father was dying and she felt the need to connect more deeply to him, as well as to her own husband and child during an incredibly stressful time. That was ten years ago and she’s based an entire lifestyle around the ritual of taking a day off from tech. Her book is an absolute must read if you want to begin the messy process of unwinding yourself from the onslaught of information our current world emits. Of all the tech books I’ve ever read-and as a computer scientist, tech blogger, budding scifi novelist, and former CTO, I’ve read a lot- 24/6 actually made me cry. Tiffany weaves story with science in a way that both tugs the heart AND gets down to the nitty gritty fact that our phones have taken over our lives. I resonated with her own struggles; oh how often I reach for the phone to check my Facebook or Twitter feed, even though I no longer have those apps. How often I check my texts, longing to hear from someone, even though I’m trying to do other things. Her “Tech Shabbat” is a real solution to consider. She writes, “By unplugging completely for one day each week, I tempered my habit of turning to my phone at every possible moment. I stopped waking up to it and started my day with my journal instead. In the other six days, when I’m on it too much, I catch myself: Don’t go down that rabbit hole.” She’s modest enough to admit she’s not perfect, and I’m certainly not there yet myself, but together we can do it. If you’d like to join the movement, or explore her ideas further, you can find out more yourself here: https://www.24sixlife.com/.
Get out in nature. The more we remember that we are of the world and part of the web of life, the more we can understand not only the things that come at us from nature (like the pandemic and wildfires) but also how we play a role in the destruction and creation of the planet we need for life. Time in nature can balance our minds-It’s even been proven to strengthen the connections between the left and right hemispheres of our brains.
Sing, dance, play an instrument. I get it, this is tough right now given the various social distancing measures in place, but crucial for human development. Even listening to classical music can change a mind, but playing it actually activates neuroplasticity. Instead of that hour on Facebook, put down the damn phone and pick up the guitar, or even the recorder if that’s all you have. You won’t regret it
Make love, hug, and kiss. If you’re in a safe relationship and/or surrounded by loved ones. If not, get a regular massage from a trusted therapist (again, social distancing takes center stage in the moment but in the long run, regular touch is PARTICULARLY important). Touch is key to the right brain experience and how the brain is initially wired up when we’re born, so find a way to touch and be touched. Babies cry to be held because, without it, their brains won’t fully develop. We’re no different than children right now as our left brains fire up into something more like a supersized portion from McDonald’s than part of a balanced duo. Think of the two sides of your brain as tango partners, equals embracing one another and dancing to the sounds of life, harmony, and the cosmos. Their love-play illumines all space.
In his book, Humankind, modern thinker Rutger Bregman claims homo sapiens actually evolved to get along. Rather than selfishness, as we’ve all been taught in school, it was kindness that we self-selected over the millennia. Together, in community, we survived ice ages, created trading and hunting networks across the continents, and invented language as a means to solidify that connectivity. In other words, we did all of this to show we care.
Perhaps, at the end of the day, love is the medicine of our times.
Originally published at https://nicolesallakanderson.com on December 7, 2020.