The self-care industrial complex relegates care to something we are supposed to buy for ourselves on a personal basis. But happiness is not an individual matter; wellness is not an individual matter. What’s out there effects what’s in here and vice versa. 

A progressive is someone who wants to see society re-organized so that ordinary people have a better chance to live a larger life. But what do we mean by larger? When we advocate for “richer lives for all” or say that “wellbeing should be a measure of progress”… yes, okay. But what do we mean by richer? And what do we mean by wellbeing?

Progressives have tended to focus on material needs — like food, security, and welfare, rather than on non-material and relational needs. Things like  experiencing intimacy with others, finding meaning in life, and being more genuine and authentic. These are often the things that matter most to us, that make life worth living. If we are going to create a more equal society, we need to find out what it is that we want all people to have a fair share of. That way we can develop policies and practices that not only help to create a fair or society at the material level, but of the non-material too. How would we reimagine a world where everyone has access to feeling loved, to expressing themselves creatively, to feeling valued and of worth?

Mick Cooper is looking at how we can evolve the progressive vision of the world by applying ideas and practices from psychology. There are system wide principles that work for coming back into balance both within people and between people. We can take what we have learned about “what works” for personal interventions and apply it at the societal level. 

Mashpee Indian Meeting House
Mashpee Indian Meeting House

I have been curious to find stories from the early days of encounters between Natives and settlers from the early days around Cape Cod, from the moment when two worldviews met, to see what was in the air in the moment before one assumed dominance over the other. I have been following the story of Richard Bourne who lived in my hometown of Sandwich and was an early minister and missionary to the Wampanoag people. He helped to establish the neighboring town of Mashpee and was frequently called upon as the arbitrator when it came to land deeds and to drawing the first borders around Sandwich and Barnstable. The intention of the settlers was to recreate as closely as possible the English-style towns they left and to gather Natives willing to convert to Christianity into “Praying Towns” led by Native converts under colonial jurisdiction. Bourne spoke some Wampanoag language and is credited with translating the Lord’s Prayer into Wampanoag.

This detail piqued my interest, as learning a language requires relationship and a strong desire to communicate and to be understood. Who was teaching Bourne the Wampanoag language? And what were those first communications like with the ones he was learning from? I can hardly imagine the many hours spent of mistakes, misunderstanding, and then understanding.

After the Lord’s Prayer, the English Bible was translated into Algonquin and printed at the press at the Harvard Indian College in 1663. It is known by the name of the missionary who oversaw the project, John Eliot.

In a discussion with historians Barry O’Connell and Lisa Brooks, they talk about how as Europeans moved westward across Turtle Island, there was a series bibles translated into local languages. Each edition attributes the translation to an English or European minister. However it was most certainly Native people who did the work of translation. In most cases, the ministers named did not have the fluency to be able to translate. North America at the time was multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and trans-national. In the Northeast region there were many languages before the English arrived that were very different from each other, for example Abanaki and Mohawk languages. There were always some people identified in the tribes who were particularly adept at learning languages.
Historical marker at Hassanamesit

Lisa Brooks points out that the Eliot Bible project gained momentum when James the Printer, the Nipmuc man who ran the printing press at the Harvard Indian College, and 4 or 5 of his Native companions became involved in the translation.

The other sign that makes it clear it was Natives who translated is the way they brought to the text their own way of seeing the world. Translation is never direct letter for letter. The indigenous worldview is infused throughout the translated version, and the Algonquin spiritual cosmology speaks through it. It contains points of view that Puritan ministers at the time would have found blasphemous to their cultural worldview.

One example Lisa Brooks gives is that in the Psalter, “My God” is translated as “Num-Manittoom,” where “Manittoom” is the animating spirit that flows through all things. It is the life force itself. There is no concept in Algonquin of good and evil, heaven or hell, and so this life force is one that has the potential for both creation and destruction. And Manittoom has the pronoun “Num,” “my dearly beloved,” where “my” is relational and not possessive. There is no way to talk about a divine power that was only externalized. In these two words we can understand that there is a personal relationship to the life force that runs through everything.

This is the worldview that has long been woven in to the landscape of the Northeast, still multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and trans-national. These worldviews are well supported to be reincorporated into our society and the way we live in this place today.

The Wampanoag language of Cape Cod and the Northeast US had been known as a “sleeping language,” with no native speakers for the last 100 years.

Through the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project, linguists and teachers are building connections to reconstitute the grammar and pronunciation through closely related languages like Blackfeet, Cree, Ojibwe, Passamaquoddy, and Sauk that are still spoken.

There is now at least one very young native speaker, with many more to come. This means we can most definitely re-thread a fabric of memory that has been frayed and re-enlived what looked to be sleeping.

Nauset Light, Eastham

The universe is said to have a direction where it is heading. Roger Penrose, Nobel laureate in physics, has done the math on where that is.

Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss:

Roger Penrose in his latest theory about cosmology, is that the entire universe goes on expanding faster and faster, until all the matter evaporates into light. And that the universe ends when everything is dissolved into light.

It’s the opposite of the contracting universe cosmology which was fashionable until about the year 2000. People thought that because of all of the dark matter, and mass in the universe, the expansion of the universe would slow down. It would stop expanding and begin to contract faster and faster, until it all imploded into a terminal black hole. So in that vision, everything ended in darkness.

In Penrose’s vision, everything ends in light. Fortunately we are poised somewhere in between the two at the moment.

It is interesting that in his cosmological vision everything dissolves in light. Which then, he says, gives rise to a new universe. By a kind of mathematical slight of hand he suddenly says, Well if its all light and it has no dimensions, then you might as well contract it by thousands of orders of magnitude until it just becomes a Big Bang and starts another universe. That is, I think, slightly fanciful, but it’s interesting that his cosmology is the entire cosmos transformed into light.

The way I read his explanation of a transition from a massively expanded cosmos where all is light to the beginning of something new is that:

When everything becomes light, not only does time disappear, because light exists in eternity, in timelessness — but also space disappears for the same reasons. Traveling at the speed of light, light does not know dimensions. And so you move towards a cosmos where there is no space, no time, and that is like the aboriginal seed bed, the source, the origin, for a new cosmos. Out of nothing, literally; a reality where there is no space or time, outside of eternity.

One way to start creolizing the new world of our dreams.

“If another world is possible, as activists and scholars frequently assert, what might it look, taste, and feel like? An Ecotopian Lexicon presents a kaleidoscopic window into the ecological multiverse: not what is, but what could or even should be.” via Atmos magazine.

Systemic constellations is not exactly the first aid kit you bring into a war zone or a traumatic situation that is currently in flames. But if you have space and time to take a step back, there are some practices for peace and justice suggested by a systems thinking worldview. 

Anti-war marchers in St Petersburg protest against Putin’s decision to authorize a military operation in Ukraine. Photograph: Anton Vaganov/Reuters

What to “do” with helplessness

When bombs are literally falling, it is hard to know what to “do” and many people come up against feelings of helplessness.

Systemically, feeling helpless is the place of the “smaller” one; in a family system it is the place of the child. Taking the place of the adult is to accept that there is currently no good move we can make. In some situations it is true that there is nothing we can do. At times like this the right move is to take our place in the powerlessness, to endure it without asking it to be different.

Powerlessness has a purpose, it has something it is trying to do. It is showing in what direction life is moving now. The more you can accept your own powerlessness, the more you can let go of old ways of being and acting that are no longer serving. From this place you can reemerge with new ways of being and new actions.

While we are in the place of powerlessness, we can also think about those who are disempowered and vulnerable, and if there is something we can do for them. To show our love and care in this way is no longer powerlessness, even if it does not change the situation directly.

Sending resourcing 

After donating what you can and sending messages of support to people you know personally, you can also send prayers and well wishes to the archetypal resources. It is a self-organizing principle that when you call on these resources, they know best where to direct the flow of wishes for safety and wellbeing.

For Ukraine many are now directing their prayers to Mokosh, the traditional and ancient goddess of the earth in that region and St Michael the Archangel, the winged protector of the sky.

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How old is this war?

To see this war as part of a living system, we can trace back in time “where did it all begin?” What are the many conditions that led to this moment?

Stop the war within

You can also work with the way previous wars are still being played out within your own consciousness. Do you feel more connection with the perpetrators or of victims?

There are no wrong answers. We all carry both the conquerors and those who were conquered within our family system and within our consciousness. Are you able to look with equanimity at the victims? the aggressors? This can serve as a guide to who within our own consciousness is not yet at peace.

In almost every systemic constellations we see that excluding a person or group from a social system always has consequences. For this reason we should be paying extra attention to the way any one group is being excluded or vilified. We cannot hope to do the work of peace building if we cannot see each one involved in their dignity.