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Breaking Free Of The Hero Myth

We humans have evolved from the days of passing information down through stories told around a campfire.

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Those ancient tales served as instructional tools for elders to explain the wonders and horrors of the world around them, teach children what it takes to become an adult, and perpetuate tribal legacy.

The Hero’s Journey was a tool for adolescents to learn their role in the community, echoing the cycles of life.

It’s not surprising that mythologist Joseph Campbell saw variations of this universal story structure in nearly every culture he studied. We can still easily recognize the same Hero’s Journey model in our 21st century mass media.

But the storyline hasn’t evolved: Hero leaves for the quest, learns from the mentor, fights the monsters, dies and resurrects, finds his power, returns with the elixir. Wash, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. Mass media has been stuck in an endless and simplified stage of the Hero’s Journey.

The mainstream is full of these savior narratives, thanks to a plethora of superhero movies, television shows, and comic books. Our narrative sensibility—a reflection of our developmental stage as a civilization—remains mired in perpetual adolescence.

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Mass media focuses on the simplest form of the Hero’s Journey—the masculine form—and perpetuates the drama triangle, an ever-present tension where characters take turns putting on certain masks (whether knowingly or through circumstance) of the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Hero/Savior. As an audience we have no choice but to identify with one of those three. The hero-savior archetype usually sacrifices something in order to save us all. And in our deep-seated expectation that a hero will rise to save us, we give our own power away.

Someone who will make a difference always arrives in the nick of time, don’t they?

In a world where we all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on huge challenges ranging from runaway climate change to poverty and inequality, the paradigm of the hero-savior, endlessly repeated throughout the media, actually disempowers us. We need alternative narratives that show empowered and diverse people taking on the biggest challenges and coming together to transform a situation, not just ‘save the day.’

The Gendered Journey

As a first step on the journey to evolve the global narrative toward an inclusive one, let’s consider making room at the table for the Gendered Journey.

Joseph Campbell gave us an amazing model from which our journey can draw inspiration, but his model is not without fault. Many critics point out that it is a predominately male-centric model. The journey perpetuates masculine patterns within its steps: aggression, persistent conflict, linear thinking, violence, and the feminine depicted as either a temptress or goddess.

Over the past few millennia, the patriarchal narrative has been undoubtedly the ruling one, and I believe this dominance has led us to the predicament we are in now.

The perpetuated narratives of conflicts with an enemy or nature no longer serve us. There needs to be an awakening and understanding that we are strengthened by one another and that we are nature. It is time to evolve beyond a narrative that is overwhelmingly biased toward the masculine archetypes of the Hero/Savior.

There have been attempts to develop a heroine’s journey model, akin to Campbell, but trying to rebuild the same circular hero’s journey and to apply it to the feminine might be missing the point. There have been new heroines’ voices appearing in media—from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games—but on the whole they follow the same varnished formula as their muscle-bound counterparts. All we have done is changed the gender.

The Heroine does not necessarily need to leave the old world; instead, she transforms the world—transforming the old world into its next evolution. Women do not need to go out and conquer; they don’t need to leave the nest and collect items to make the home or even hometown better. When a strong female character is involved, the narrative is multi-dimentional. Women invite the tribe to be part of their journey and are empowering to the collective. The power of the feminine is about transforming nothing into something.

An emergent narrative can be offered that is much more complex, nonlinear, networked, and exciting. The Gendered Journey can encompass the masculine, feminine, and two-spirited journey, which can be any of the rainbow colored genders. These are journeys of coming out, waking up to how one truly defines oneself, and being proud and empowered by the journey. How can we ever create a thriving and balanced global civilization when our basic stories are outmoded, violent, unmindful, and needlessly one-sided?

This is beyond a call to action—it’s a wakeup call!—to create more narratives with evolved archetypes that tell the story of the world we know is possible.

The Collective Journey

Imagine this scenario: The human race has made its first contact with an intelligent alien civilization. You are the one chosen to go and represent humanity and the planet Earth as we make the first close encounter of the third kind with our new galactic neighbors.

What story will you tell?

How do you synthesize a whole planet’s existence into a few sentences?

The narrative of humanity and the Earth as one system can be referred to as the metanarrative—the synthesis of all stories, experiences, history, ideas, and beliefs of all humanity. It is comprised of the narratives of all who ever lived, an intertwining of stories reaching from the dawn of humanity and stretching to our destiny. It is the essence of what it means to be human.

Humanity is changing at a rapid pace. We live in a different world from our ancestors, facing very different challenges. Our civilization is moving towards a global reality. The old myths do not recount or prophesize how we engage humanity as a whole. We do not have a Hero’s Journey that tells the trials and tribulations of a collective of diverse peoples.

New narratives are important in times of great transformations.

The Collective Journey Rises

The Collective Journey is a nonlinear, multiplatform, physical and digital experience and story of several diverse people, groups, tribes, cultures, and networks coming together for a higher purpose and a common cause. In their journeys, they move beyond their own individual experiences to a cohesive collective that is both the sum of all individuals and also a new entity entirely. They move between physical interactions in real space to online digital interactions in cyberspace.

Our technological advancement, mobile and urban lives, the Internet, and even journeys into outer space have all created the circumstances for the rise of the Collective Journey.

On December 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew took the famous photo of the Earth, dubbed “Blue Marble,” from space. This was the first time we saw our planet from an outside perspective and in its entirety. It gave us our entry point to start considering the idea of a planetary society. Similarly, the Collective Journey can help us move from the individual narrative into a far greater narrative with a global perspective of humanity.

The Collective Journey can become a tool for social movements and climate change groups, and it can empower us to change political narratives in geographical areas. These are stories of empowerment that are accepting of all voices and can bring forth positive change. We are still in the very early stages of this journey. We don’t yet have the full vocabulary to tell this epic Collective Journey.

maya

As such, it cannot be a singular narrative. It must converge many voices of different genders, ethnicities, ages, and opinions in a nonlinear fashion.

Glimpses are starting to show up in many fringe areas and countercultures around the world: At Burning Man, the counterculture festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, and at the startups, hackerspaces, makerspaces, and collaborative co-working spaces popping up in major cities across the globe. People are creating new technologies, new social structures, and new ways of working that differ from the hierarchal structures of the past. New collective mythologies are being created and remixed.

Developing a fixed and linear model for such a fluid, multidimensional, and ever-evolving complex system is not a simple task, but here is my attempt at a starting point (see diagram).

Credit: Maya Zuckerman

Credit: Maya Zuckerman

The model is a simplistic representation of the stages that may occur, told linearly (as is the default when reading this digital, 2-dimensional page).

The digital interbeing that is the Internet can be a frightening place, harbouring extremely angry and polarizing voices, but if we look closely we can see a new and inclusive narrative emerging through diverse groups. Virtual worlds, augmented worlds, massively multiplayer online games, and other immersive spaces and technologies will hail an era where more collective experiences can emerge. New forms of narratives will evolve to work within these spaces. We are at the very beginning of creating the playground for the Collective Journey to come to pass.

How can we align the entire human race to powerfully choose a narrative that serves humanity as a whole?

We are more connected than at any other time in human history. We are standing at the threshold of a future, which we can help forge. But in order to do so, we must deeply understand the collective approach in the same way that we have understood the individual heroic approach.

It’s time to start writing humanity’s epic story together!

———————

For a deeper dive into these ideas, read the The New Human Narrative ebook.

(Featured Image Credit: Maya Zuckerman)

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Consciousness

The Study of Fundamental Consciousness Entering the Mainstream

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Consciousness is appearing to be a fundamental property, just like liquids, solids and gas, consciousness and its connection to the physical material world is now gaining big time credibility.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do we have yet to discover? Are we ready to abandon what we thought we knew in light of new discoveries and evidence?

The world-renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch, spent nearly two decades working alongside the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, Francis Crick. Their mission was to find the neurobiological basis of consciousness. They discovered many insights into cognition and the functioning of perception, yet the central enigma, the nature of consciousness itself, remained mysteriously elusive.

In 2009, Koch shocked the scientific community by publishing his conviction that consciousness probably isn’t just in brains, but is a fundamental feature of reality. This is a view known to philosophers as ‘panpsychism.’ The theory Koch is now dedicating his research to is called ‘Integrated Information Theory’ or ‘IIT.’ It is the brainchild of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In explaining his theory, Tononi asks us to consider a simple light sensitive photo diode like those found in a digital camera. A simple diode might respond to just two states: light or dark. We could present our diode with any number of images, yet regardless of the picture, the diode conforms to one of only two possible states. Is it light, or is it dark?

Now consider yourself looking at the same picture, lets say, of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful spring day in Paris. For us, looking at this image results in a reduction from a near infinity of possible states. Not an image of the Andromeda galaxy, not a childhood picture of your mother, not cells dividing in a Petri dish and so on.  Because of the vast number of images we are capable of recognizing, each one is highly informative. For Tononi, the vast amount of information capable of being integrated in the brain means that we have a comparatively huge capacity for consciousness.

Tononi’s theory, that consciousness is born out of networks with high integrated information, has novel ways of being tested in the laboratory.

In studies with sleeping participants, Tononi and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to send a ripple of activity through the cortex of sleeping participants. The researchers found that when dreaming, this ripple reverberated through the cortex longer than when participants were in stages of dreamless sleep. This demonstrated that during dreaming, when the brain is conscious, the cortex has a higher degree of integration.

In another experiment, the researchers built tiny robots known as ‘animats’ that were placed into mazes. The animats used simple integrated networks capable of evolving over sequential generations. To their surprise, the greater the degree of integration that the animats evolved, the quicker they were able to escape the mazes. For Tononi this finding suggested that consciousness may play a more central role in evolution than had previously been thought.

The mathematical value of integrated information in a network is known as phi. But Tononi’s theory, now the topic of serious mainstream discussion, has an extraordinary implication. Phi didn’t just occur in brains, -it is a property of any network with a total informational content greater than its individual parts. Every living cell, every electronic circuit, even a proton consisting of just three elementary particles have a value of phi greater than zero. According to Integrated Information Theory, all of these things possess something, albeit but a glimmer of ‘what it is like’ to be them. Tononi states:

“Consciousness is a fundamental property, like mass or charge. Wherever there is an entity with multiple states, there is some consciousness. You need a special structure to get a lot of it but consciousness is everywhere, it is a fundamental property.”

Integrated information theory is in its infancy and there are still many questions it must face. Did the information of brains operate at the level of the neuron, or the protein, or something deeper still? The electromagnetic field of the brain, as observed by psi researcher Dean Radin, is always re-establishing its quantum connection to the entire universe. Could a much richer informational interaction exist than has yet been imagined?

Physicists such as John Wheeler have laid the groundwork for a radical new understanding of reality, in which matter, the laws and constants of nature, and indeed the entire universe is best described, not in terms of physical objects, but through the play and display of a fundamental dynamic information.

Quantum mechanics suggests that at the deepest level of nature, the entire physical universe is interconnected. Might the total information of the universe be integrated in some deep sense? Is it in a mysterious way conscious of itself?

As spiritual traditions throughout the ages have long asserted, instead of isolated and separate experiencing beings, we may experience on behalf of the greater evolving system in which we find ourselves.

In Koch’s highly anticipated 2012 book, ‘Consciousness – Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist’, he states:

“I do believe that the laws of physics overwhelmingly favored the emergence of consciousness. The universe is a work in progress. Such a belief evokes jeremiads from many biologists and philosophers but the evidence from cosmology, biology and history is compelling.”

Regardless of the validity of Tononi’s theory, today increasing numbers of scientists and academics are convinced that the existence of consciousness simply cannot be sensibly denied. The study of fundamental consciousness is now entering the mainstream. This movement consists of thinkers in and outside of the mind sciences. Yet despite their different academic backgrounds, they are united by two common convictions: that consciousness is an intrinsic rather than incidental emergence in the universe, and that any complete account of reality must include an explanation of it.

 Sources:

 Koch, C. (2009, August 18). A complex theory of consciousness: Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness? Scientific American.

 Tononi, G. (2008). Consciousness as integrated information: A provisional manifesto. Biological Bulletin, 215(3), 216-242.

 Edlund, J. A., Chaumont, N., Hintze, A., Koch C., Tononi G., & Adami, C. (2011). Integrated information increases with fitness in the evolution of animats. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(10).

 Radin, D. I. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory experiences in quantum reality. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 Koch, C. (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. MIT Press Books.

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Alternative News

If You Could Power Your Entire Home With 60 Minutes Of Cycling, Would You Do It?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Mechanical energy, converted into kinetic energy can provide the energy that we use on a regular basis to power our homes and electronic devices.

  • Reflect On:

    Rather than focusing on the current problems in our world it is great to change gears and have a look at all of the solutions that are popping up all over the world.

Imagine if your morning workout could power your home for the entire day, all the way until your next morning workout. Well, you may not have to imagine, as this technology exists now. Manoj Bhargava has invented a new exercise bike that can power some homes for 24 hours after use for only sixty minutes per day.

This invention was a part of a new initiative to bring electricity to places that undergo frequent power outages or may only have access to power for a few hours during the day. In our modern age, going without electricity can really separate a person from the rest of the world. Bhargava’s mission is to bridge the gap for those who suffer from poverty and make it easier for them to access the same information as the rest of the world, potentially giving them more opportunities in life.

The Free Electric

The above heading is also the name of this awesome and innovative bike serving as a solution to a pretty significant issue in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

According to Bhargava, the Free Electric is meant to lead to “better health, more leisure time, better access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” He also feels that it could, “literally change the world.”

Power to change the world? Bold statement, but if this is able to be implemented worldwide, I would absolutely have to agree with him. This technology not only has the capacity to assist those in poverty, but can also be used by the rest of the world as well as more and more people around the world who are aiming to reduce their usee of fossil fuels. I have a feeling that Millennials (such as myself) and younger generations would be all over this if its made available! Not only is it a great way to get your cardio in, but it provides FREE electricity that produces no other pollution.

As mentioned in the video, it is also a great solution in the face of natural, or even man made disasters because this type of electricity would not rely on that generated and sold by power companies. Perhaps even one day a way to stock up and store this energy will be possible — then, the opportunities here will be much more plentiful and could be a huge factor in reducing the amount of pollution our current methods of energy production are creating.

The Future Is Friendly

As much as there is sometimes destruction all around us, there is also innovation and ingenuity. Human beings have tremendous potential. Even though there are many problems that we as a society are facing, solutions are popping up and fast, and in most cases they already exist. Finding solutions doesn’t seem to be the problem, so ask yourself, what is?  It’s so great to see ideas such as these being conceptualized and then created and put into use so efficiently, it shows how our species is capable of stopping and potentially reversing some of the destruction that we have caused over the years.

This is absolutely a double win! We are constantly bombarded with news stories and articles that are telling us to be more active, stop sitting so much, and now with the Free Electric, we will have to be active before we can relax and enjoy the use of our precious technology.

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Discover

Physicists ‘Grow’ A Man Made Diamond From Nuclear Waste That’s Able To Generate Electricity

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have developed a technology that can convert leftover radioactive materials into diamond batteries to power a wide range of electronics.

  • Reflect On:

    Could this be the solution to use op all the radioactive materials on the planet and shut down nuclear power plants worldwide?

Currently there is more than 2 billion tons of nuclear waste across the globe. This nuclear waste is a hazardous threat to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Scientists have recently begun attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that could last for thousands of years. If they are successful with this conversion project it would be a double win, less nuclear waste contaminating our environment, and a way to reuse energy that was generated to give power to whatever requires it.

Diamond batteries that use the energy from leftover radioactive materials have been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol. They are now hoping to be able to recycle the waste leftover from decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK. According to the University, “New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery….A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.” (source)

How Does This Work?

According to The Independent,

Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent.

“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

In order to make these diamond batteries safe for medical and consumer use they are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which will absorb any radiation given off by the C14 source.

According to the University,

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.  By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Could This Be The Solution We’ve Been Searching For?

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”

Time will tell how effective this method that scientists have come up with will be able to be implemented worldwide, but if it is, just imagine the implications of what this technology could represent.

Is It Time To Move Away From Nuclear Energy?

You’d think since the Fukushima disaster there would be a worldwide agreement for countries to stop generating power from nuclear reactors and to safely shut down these plants. Nuclear disasters have devastating effects on our planet and all of it’s inhabitants, recovery from such accidents can take tens of thousands of years to lose their hazardous radioactivity. Take the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986 and is now contained under a metal shell, this site will likely remain radioactive for up to 20,000 years.

Instead of waiting for these disasters to occur, shouldn’t we be safely dismantling these sites before any more devastating disasters occur? Thankfully many countries are vowing to shut down their nuclear power plants and we can only hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

The Future Is Here

There are so many amazing technologies that have the capacity to revolutionize the way we use energy on this planet. Of course many of those are hidden from us, especially if they cannot be in some way profited from, and unfortunately as it seems, if they don’t exploit the environment and our resources in some way.

As innovative ideas abound and technology continues to rapidly develop, we have to assume that safer and more innovative means of producing electricity will be uncovered. Hopefully these technologies will also have the capacity to undo some of the damage that we have done to our planet.

At the end of the day, using nuclear energy is not needed anymore, and in reality nuclear waste should not even exist at this point in our development as a collective.

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