Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dutch Edition!

The Dutch edition of Digital Dharma has just been released! Here is a link to the announcement.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The LOVER IN THE INFOSPHERE

In this essay I will look at the protector archetype of the Lover, the part of the self that hungers to establish clean connections with "the other," the part that holds our magical inner child – and its creativity and its wounds. The Lover energy is held in both the second and fourth chakras: the first in the interpersonal realms of creative expression, relationship and sexuality; and the second in the transpersonal qualities of the heart center – compassion for the pain and joy in the joy of the other. The first extended into the Infosphere by the telephone; the second through the medium of television.

Relationship is the core communications issue associated with the second chakra: the transponder of attraction and the center of one’s creativity. From here, one radiates the primordial drive for union embedded in our very protons and electrons, seeking on the physical plane to “reach out and touch someone,” to heal the wound of incompleteness. When protected by the Warrior and guided by the wisdom of the Magician, the Lover can dance the analog rise and fall of reciprocity. But when damaged, this connection-craving center calls out to anyone. Obsessive talking and poor relationship boundaries are signs of unbalanced second chakra energy. At its most extreme, this transmitter’s shadow side engenders seduction, entanglement and shame.

Both sides of second chakra communications can be seen out in the Infosphere: over the phone and across the net. Shared talk is an intimate act, and the telephone brings one to a state of intimate proximity with whoever is at the other end of the line. The drive for authentic connection underlies most telephone talk. Lovers everywhere talk the night away; conference call "phone bridges" provide group therapy on the most intimate topics. Support groups for those facing grief, addictions and life-threatening diseases, quietly thrive on phone conferencing systems provided by universities, hospitals and social service agencies. The anonymous intimacy of phones allows for deep connection, even among strangers. No wonder this technology has also had its sexual side. From the earliest days “dirty talk” over the telephone troubled its inventors. This was a tool that allowed Victorian Age young women to find their voice, to connect with their friends and their lovers outside of the control of parents and chaperones.

Not much has changed today. From phone sex lines to cellphone-connected lovers revealing their most intimate secrets to everyone nearby, the second chakra power of telephone is everywhere. Even in Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the most conservative (and repressive) gender-segregated social system, the mobile phone has emerged as the tool of courtship – or at least flirting. According to the New York Times, all a young woman has to do is turn on her phone's Bluetooth feature and within seconds “it is bombarded with love poems and photos of flowers” sent by nearby young men. Some men are even buying high-powered radio belts to extend their wooing range.

The Lover also resides in the heart center. At this level, the work of connection is not about finding one’s soulmate or friend, but about seeing our connection to all things. The mature heart is open to seeing all beings as reflections of the self, and all these reflections as part of a larger divine pattern (understanding these patterns is the Magician’s gift). The heart’s challenge is to remain open and fully compassionate to whatever comes its way; and its shadow is rooted in its attempts to sidestep the grief of seeing all the pain in the world of limitation and attachment. As I wrote in my essay on television and the heart, “seeing the other” is the transpersonal challenge of the Lover, and its transpersonal shadow is mistaking codependency for compassion, sympathy for others “stories” with true appreciation and reciprocity.

Telling compassionate stories is what drives the best television programming. Previously disenfranchised people -- the poor and homeless, even endangered species like whales and dolphins -- have all found a place in TV's all-embracing portrait of the global family. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, Sesame Street and the early versions of Star Trek embodied television's heart-softening magic, connecting us with other families, neighborhoods, cultures and even distant galaxies. This medium not only brings the ugliness of war "home;" it tends to humanize the "enemy." In the 70's, television coverage of the Vietnam War helped turn the tide of public opinion against this otherwise remote conflict. This subversion of military victories by TV's coverage of its consequences on "regular citizens" continues today. The horrific images of American soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraid Prison shown on television in the summer of 2004 did more to turn the world against the Iraq war than dozens of street protests.

The Shadow Lover wants connection but can’t stand the pain that comes along with it. Shadow media provokes our hearts then offers the perfect anesthetic – addictive consumption without end, gratification of false wants, desires and attachments, without the mess of embodiment. Clear television viewing demands that we look deeply into all of the pain we hold in our own energy field and in all of mass consciousness. It asks the heart to break open in compassion. But for most of us, this is too much to ask. Without a strong grounding in the lower chakras and without the connections to the divine self held by the higher centers, the ego-mind turns away from all the painful data global video links bring from the outside world, and quite naturally searches for some kind of "jamming signal."

Commercial television's shadow side destroys our peace and tranquility because the Shadow Lover demands it! We empower this industry to use all of its artistic power to cover the possibility of confronting global grief with attention grabbing, but essentially empty, mini-dramas. Commercial television's world is a place where nothing interferes with desire: a perfect consumer society, united by a shared love for consumer products. Many web videos traffic in porn and cynicism, deflecting the hunger for connection, or mocking it with teenage aloofness that disguises a fear of intimacy. We self-medicate, but of course, the cure is worse than the disease.

Calling in the Protector Lover from the heart and from the sexual centers brings us back to the joy of connection, and of gratitude for having a chance to experience compassion. Shared rituals of co-creation and appreciation, dance and prayer [from Burning Man to the Dances of Universal Peace], bring these Lover qualities to the fore. On in the Infosphere, we can radiate these qualities to all we link up with. Safe behind the Warrior’s shield, we can show our playfulness and our grief. We can inspect our “cellular” connections and disconnect all the cords of inappropriate attachment. We can find ourselves in the face of the Other in every image and video clip.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our Evolving Global Brain

Last year, the Institute of Noetic Sciences published a short article of mine that looked at some of the impacts of new media on the brain. That article is now available online as a PDF file. Enjoy.