cocoonMany years ago when I was still an undergraduate student at a Cambridge University in England, I had a good friend who was doing medical research on cancer.  He was trying to find out what, if any, psychological factors would be relevant to a person developing cancer.  He developed a very elaborate psychological evaluation, looking for overwhelmingly negative events which could provoke a “death wish” in the subconscious of the patient.  But he only found such an event in about forty percent of his subjects. The death of a child, bankruptcy, the end of a marriage, were all potentially contributing factors for the subject developing cancerous cells in less than a year later.

So what about the other sixty percent?  For a long time he was baffled.  But then he changed the questionnaire from looking for overwhelmingly negative events to overwhelming events of any kind.  He included his scope to include positive things: a new relationship, the birth of a baby, a promotion at work.  Once he broadened his parameters to look for change of any kind, whether positive or negative, he found a correlation of almost ninety percent.

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park-placeMany years ago, when my children were still quite young, we got a visit for the weekend from my friend Peter Russell. You may know him from his book, “The Global Brain,” and more recently, “From Science to God.” He came to visit us for the weekend to get a break from his busy teaching and writing schedule. He wanted some time off. So that Saturday afternoon he organized a grand Monopoly tournament with my two sons, who were around six and nine at the time.

As the game wore on, someone had built up hotels on Park Avenue, and someone else had bought all the utility companies; you know how Monopoly goes. I was glad to get a break from looking after the kids, so I wandered in and out from time to time to see how they were getting on.

What I learned that afternoon has stayed with me ever since.

My youngest son, Shuba, who was only six at the time, got very caught up in the game, as kids often do. So at one point, when he landed on Pete’s two hotels on Park Avenue and had to pay thousands of dollars in rent, he lost it. He ran to his room crying, saying he hated all of us. It took us 15 minutes to coax him out. When the game went better for him, on the other hand, he was overjoyed, ecstatic, and wanted to play forever. Pete, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying himself no matter what. He rolled his dice, and if his fortunes were good he laughed. He rolled the dice again, and if his fortunes were bad…he still laughed. (more…)

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If you’ve watched the television news in the last few months, or listened to the radio, or been on the internet, or looked at a magazine… or even just talked to well… anybody, you must be aware that the general consensus is that this is a time of unprecedented challenge and transition. Economically, that often gets focused onto the United States, but actually in the wider implications, the transition that we are passing through is global.

I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out what that means. Whether we focus on sinking into a global recession–or even depression–or global warming, or peak oil, or the many unresolved political conflicts around the world: whatever parameter you choose to focus on, many people feel today fear that we are sitting on a bus heading over the edge of a cliff. Depressing, isn’t it?

Suppose for a moment that your house develops severe dry rot in the basement. The contractor comes, takes a look and says, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do. It’s too far gone. Better to tear the place down.” This would be inconvenient, but not the end of the world. Now suppose that it was your neighborhood gone to seed, taken over by… what? Lawyers? Communists? White supremacists? Doesn’t matter. If you don’t like the area where you’re living you can always move to another part of town. Now what about if it was your city, or your state, or even the country? There’s always an alternative. You could move to Phoenix, or Alaska, or even Mexico or Europe. Bali is very nice, too. (more…)