Interview of Jeremy Lent ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Jeremy Lent. He’s an author and founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the earth. 

The Liology Institute, which integrates systems science with ancient wisdom traditions, holds regular workshops and other events in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to The Patterning Instinct, Jeremy is author of the novel Requiem of the Human Soul. Formerly, he was the founder, CEO, and chairman of a publicly traded internet company. Lent holds a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

So first off, thank you for your work, and secondly, thank you for being on the program.

JL: It’s a pleasure, Derrick. Happy to be here.

DJ: Thanks. And we will just, for transparency’s sake, say that this is the second time we’ve talked, because we did this before and technology screwed us, which is a theme we could talk about if you want. And it didn’t work. So we’re trying again.

JL: And I would just add on the plus side, it gives us the chance for some more conversation, which is always such a pleasure with you, Derrick.

DJ: Oh yeah. I want to think there was a Freudian part of me that made it so it didn’t work, so we could chat again.

So, the first question is: Your most recent book is called The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search For Meaning. Can you tell us what the patterning instinct is and why that’s important?

JL: Sure. We can think of the patterning instinct as the instinct that humans have to a greater degree than any other animal. What really differentiates humans and causes us to do all the things we’ve done on the earth over the last thousands of years? It’s really this patterning instinct. It’s an instinct to look at the otherwise maybe kind of chaotic world we see around us, and to pattern some kind of meaning into it. And we see that in, for example, an infant who’s just learning how to talk. Nobody teaches her. You’re meant to make sense of the words you hear around you. But she has this instinct to find meaning in this melee of sounds, and uses that patterning instinct to basically learn her language, and, importantly, her culture.

And the reason why it’s so important is that it’s that patterning instinct that leads humans to develop culture, and to make meaning out of the universe.

So, for example, when humans first looked at the whole universe, as they began to try to make sense of it, it was the patterning instinct that gave them some sense of spirits, and some kind of thing that drives their actions, essentially, which finally led to where we are today.

DJ: It seems like part of what you’re saying is that one of the things we do is attempt to, as you said, make meaning of the patterns we see around us. And how can that be – how can that be problematical? Not that fact itself, but how has that turned problematical? Such that, you ask questions – you say things like “our rampant consumerism is consuming the earth,” which is obviously true. Can you give me positive and negative examples of the patterning instinct?

JL: That’s a great question. How does it end up in the place we’re in right now? Really what the whole book is about is a cultural history of humanity’s search for meaning. It looks at the different ways that different cultures have patterned meaning into the universe. So really, this kind of consumer culture we’re in today is the most recent way in which originally European and then western civilization, which has now become global civilization, has formed some kind of meaning frames into telling us where our values should be at and what we’re meant to do.

But other cultures in history made very very different patterns of meaning out of the universe around them. For example, the early hunter-gatherers. The first kind of pattern of meaning, if you will, that humans around the world came up with, was to see nature as a giving parent, and to see humans as being part of this family of spirits, all around them. And that led them to have a totally different way of relating to the natural world, of relating to each other, than developed after that. That’s one example.

You get to see how, with the rise of agriculture, completely different patterns of meaning arose. And then you can begin to trace how, with the rise of big civilizations, like Greek or European civilizations, or Chinese or Indian, these different ways in which the civilizations make sense of the universe actually end up driving history, all the way to the present day.

DJ: So I want to ask you about how – I want you to be really really explicit about how the patterns you’ve been taught, the cultural meanings – okay, let’s back up. For me it seems that the world is so complex that it’s possible to see many different meanings. If you don’t mind me going on for a second, I’ve gotten in a few big arguments before with sort of Richard Dawkins-style, Selfish Gene evolutionary biologists. And I believe that evolution is more based on cooperation than competition, and we’ll have disagreements about this. And one of the things that really strikes me, and one of the places I always come to, is that the truth is that evolution itself is more complex than any model we project onto it. But it’s also so complex that we can project a bunch of different models onto it.

Do you agree with that, so far?

JL: Yes, I think that makes total sense, actually.

DJ: So what I wanted to ask you about is how does … give some examples of finding a pattern that might end up being ecologically or socially destructive. You already said hunter-gatherers, but be more specific about this.

JL: Maybe one way to sort of get at this might be, for example, to look at – imagine we’re in nature somewhere, and we see an animal, like an antelope, some kind of grazing animal go across our sight. Depending on what sort of cultural complex you come from, you can look at this in different ways and make totally different sense out of it. So, for example, that hunter-gatherer, forager, who looks at that antelope, might see potentially food. But also would definitely see a spirit. They would see a kindred spirit. And if they actually ended up killing that animal for food, they would have a sacred ritual to recognize the spirit that was part of that creature they were now consuming. That would be one way of making sense of the world.

A farmer, on the other hand, who has put up their boundaries and says “This is human and this is cultivated land and that’s the wild,” might see that creature as either, potentially a threat, you know. “I’ve got my crops and I’ve got to make sure that fence is really strong to keep that animal out of here.” So there’s this kind of separation between human and nature, which became a big part of the agrarian mindset.

And then a completely different example – you know, you mentioned Richard Dawkins. Richard or one of his kind of followers, if they were looking at that antelope, what they’d see is this incredibly, incredibly complicated machine. They wouldn’t even see a spirit. What they’d say is “This is this incredible, sort of sophisticated algorithm that these processes of evolution have created.” Richard Dawkins has actually said something like “When I look at a bat, I see nothing other than a very very complicated machine.” And nature is nothing but sort of bits of data.

So that’s a completely different way of framing sense out of something. And that’s one of the most important frames of meaning that our modern civilization has, that is causing so much destruction. Because it doesn’t look at nature as having any intrinsic value, any intrinsic spirit or reason to be, other than what kind of resource does it provide for humans to optimize in one way or the other?

DJ: And that reminds me of the line by the Canadian lumberman: “When I look at trees, I see dollar bills.”

JL: Exactly. And so to riff off of that for a minute, that leads to these very dangerous kinds of metaphors, of understanding how modern, even environmentalists try to make sense of the world. For example, you get a lot of people who really care about the environment, scientists who are trying to get those in centers of power to wake up and see the destruction they’re causing, and talk about this notion of “ecosystem services.” And if you read the environmental journals nowadays, it’s almost ubiquitous. So “ecosystem services” is this powerful metaphor. And these are mostly really awakened people trying to do good, and trying to get some sustainability. But as long as you see nature as this kind of, sort of like fitting nature into this monetized metaphor of capitalism, and saying “No, we have to treat nature really carefully, because what a great resource it is.” They can calculate “The oceans themselves add thirteen trillion dollars of value to the GDP, so we’ve got to take this seriously.”

So it’s kind of interesting how even progressive, caring, scientific understandings of nature can still fall into these dangerous metaphors, with potentially very dangerous entailments.

DJ: I was talking to a bunch of students at an Ivy League school one time, and the students were environmentalists, and several of them were really pushing this idea about how we have to put value on everything in nature, as you’re saying. And I said back to one of them “You know, I completely agree with you that we need to put value on everything. In fact, I was just talking to your parents before I came out here, and we were estimating your future value. Since you’re at an Ivy League school, we put your estimated future earnings at four million dollars. We think it’s going to be a little bit lower, but we went for that. So what I did is I went ahead and gave your parents six million dollars and they said I could kill you.”

JL (laughing) Exactly.

DJ: And actually your parents were quite delighted with the deal because they’re getting an extra two million bucks out of this.

JL: I love it. You really hit it. These are some of the dangers of metaphors essentially gone wild.

So to get back to the notion of what the patterning instinct does, what humans do, is because we kind of try to frame meaning into the world, the way we do that is we actually create core metaphors. And that’s something that the book uses almost like a frame of reference, to look at how different cultures made sense of the universe, is to look at these core metaphors that different cultures use when they try to understand nature, humanity, and what humanity is and how we relate to nature. And it’s key that from these core metaphors, entailments naturally arise. So we begin to think of things that naturally arise from that metaphor, whatever it is. But if we don’t understand what that core metaphor is, even with the best intentions, we can keep acting in ways that end up reifying that metaphor, potentially at the expense of what we really care about, in nature and in ourselves.

DJ: So be more explicit, please, about some of these core metaphors. Are you talking about the machine metaphor that Richard Dawkins would probably believe is not a metaphor, but how the world really is? Is that a core metaphor?

JL: That’s right. That’s one really powerful metaphor that the western world, the modern western world is kind of based on. So that leads to things like, for example, there are new ways of looking at how we deal with climate change. Again, potentially well-intentioned scientists who are kind of looking at how we’re out of control, and we’re going to surge past two degrees Celsius to hit three plus. Civilization will be at risk. So they say “Okay, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to engineer the earth.” So, again, using this metaphor of nature as a machine, they come up with this idea of geoengineering, and come up with these massive global projects to essentially try to fix things, to reduce the amount of solar radiation, or reduce carbon dioxide in the ocean, or wherever it might be.

So that’s one powerful metaphor. Another one that I sort of identify as the core metaphor underlying the modern western world view, is the idea of conquering nature. And that’s something that really arose from the scientific revolution in Europe, the kind of 17th century. And at the time, it was this incredibly progressive exciting clarion call, like “Oh, these amazing things we can do!”

If you think of nature as this thing that causes you disease and is dangerous, and that humans have this kind of heroic struggle to kind of make some kind of sense of the world from it, then the idea of nature is this rallying cry that allows you to think “Oh, we can help cure people, and we can do all this good stuff with that.” And that was a real inspiration for the scientific revolution. And it also, that conquering metaphor also helped the Europeans to feel they could just go around and conquer the rest of the world and that was completely okay. Like they were just fulfilling their White Man’s Destiny or whatever. And so you can see that as a core metaphor with its entailments, and contrast that, for example, with what you saw in traditional Chinese culture, where the idea of conquering nature would have been completely absurd and the very notion of it would never have arisen in anyone’s mind, basically.

DJ: Okay, let’s talk about different crosscultural metaphors in a moment, but for now can you talk about how these sort of core metaphors evolve within one culture? Can you talk about the evolution of the core metaphors of western civilization and how they have become more whatever it is they’ve become?

JL: That’s another sort of really big question there. As I did the research for this book, what I came to realize was that you have to sort of go and peel the layers and go deeper and deeper to try to get to this real core metaphor underlying all of the other stuff. So “Conquering nature” or “nature is a machine,” okay, but where did that come from?

So what I discovered was that really, starting with the ancient Greeks, there was a true cognitive revolution, if you will, in human thought. That for the first time, there was this sense of a dualistic universe that got seeded, and that Plato and other of the ancient Greek philosophers at the time, turned into this powerful way of making sense of the universe that’s been with western Europe ever since.

And so you might say “Well, what is dualism, what’s that got to do with conquering nature and all that stuff?” And so what dualism is, what Plato did the best job of defining, was that he looked at the universe as being not just one universe, but essentially a split universe. And what he saw was a transcendent dimension of the universe, that was outside of the material realm, where everything was perfect and eternal and unchanging and ideal. And that was where “ultimate good” came from.

And then you had the material world, which is polluted and changing and that’s where people died, and basically kind of a sucky place. And the idea of being in this material world was to try to get as close as we could to that ideal dimension elsewhere.

And he then saw the human being as paralleling that kind of split. So suddenly the human being got split into having a soul that was somehow within us and couldn’t be seen but was also eternal and in touch with that ideal universe. The soul was kind of imprisoned in this corrupt body, with things like sex and taste, and the body was going to die and get polluted. And this led to this amazing split in western thought, where ideas like, reason was the characteristic of the soul. And emotion was literally moving within our body, and that was considered something we wanted to rise up from.

So you got all these splits in thinking, and they got applied to the material world and the natural world, and a long time later with Descartes, he took that same dualistic thought and applied it in this really powerful way to the material world, saying basically humans are the only ones capable of thinking. Cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” Doesn’t that mean that animals have no soul whatsoever, that essentially they’re completely without value, without any meaningful existence? And so he was the one who first cam up with this idea of animals being pure machines with literally no soul to them. So if they were screaming in pain when he was conducting a vivisection, that to him would be no different than the sound a piano might make if you hit a key on it. It had no actual significance of suffering.

DJ: You know, all of this is why I hate philosophy so much. From the beginning, they’re taking some really important concepts, and then it seems like they always get the wrong end of the stick.

JL: I hear what you’re saying. You know, what’s interesting is, it’s kind of western philosophy that you’re talking about. Basically the West has so dominated its own thought structures, and seen that as the only kind of thought structure that exists. That even if you talk to a western philosopher, a mainstream western philosopher, they’ll say the only philosophy that really exists is western philosophy, because of the fact that it’s based on the sense of using pure reason. And it goes from there, and is based on logic and stuff.

Then if you look at Chinese philosophy, for example, you see a completely different way of making sense of things. And it’s based on this totally different core metaphor again, of seeing humans as an integral part of the universe, and the universe as being like this kind of harmonic web, where everything you touch resonated with everything else, and it leads to a completely different way of understanding the human place within the natural world.

DJ: So maybe you can help me with something. I’ve written so much about the issues we’re talking about, and there’s still a language trap that I fall into quite often, which is I will talk about my body, and that disturbs me, because that still is buying into that separation that I am not my body. Maybe I should be asking this off the interview instead of in the interview, but maybe you can help me with that.

JL: Actually, this is a great question, and it is something that I explore in the book to some degree. What it is, is because of this dualistic split, as you say, we’re all conditioned to grow up thinking that what, sort of, I am. Essentially, this thing I call “conceptual consciousness,” which is split from what you might think of as our animate consciousness.

So you might say, “What’s that talking about?” So our conceptual consciousness is basically the part of us that really thinks in a way that is more uniquely human, and involves symbolic thoughts and is capable of this kind of reasoning, and this part of the human consciousness, people like Plato deify. So that’s the soul, that’s our divinity or whatever. And they saw the rest of us as being not even worth taking seriously.

But another part of us, what I call our animate consciousness, is all the stuff of us that we share with every other mammal out there. You know, feelings and caring and needing to take a piss, or feeling angry or feeling part of community. All the other stuff that we feel around us. And in the West, that’s always been sort of split, and so we talk about “my body.” But in other traditional cultures, that’s just not the case at all. So the Chinese, for example, when they talk about the mind, they call it “xin.” And “xin” literally refers to the heart. So they see the mind, like the core of the human consciousness, as being actually placed in the heart. And imagine how that leads to different entailments right there, because the heart of course is something that responds to, you know when you get excited you can feel it beat more. And so it’s like this integral part of the body. So they just didn’t see that split, of “my body” in that kind of way.

DJ: This seems like a nice place to start asking you about your … about the Institute, the Liology Institute. Can you talk about that a little bit? First off, what is “liology”? And what does that have to do with everything we’ve been talking about so far?

JL: Liology is an integrated investigation, if you will, into the ways in which we’re all connected. Connected within ourselves, within the universe, and with nature. And the word itself comes from a traditional Chinese word, “li,” which literally means the principles of organization, the principles by which all the stuff of the universe connects with everything else in the universe. So you can see liology as being essentially an integration of the western word “ology,” like the study of, along with this traditional Chinese word “li.”

I established this institute some years back, really in response to the stuff I was seeing that we’ve just been talking about for the last half hour, this realization that the worldview that is mainstream and dominant right now, is leading us to destruction, based on its focus on separation, based on these kind of dualistic splits. And as I did the research for this book, something amazing came to me, that I began to look not just at things like traditional Chinese thought, but also in looking at modern science, I began to realize that all of modern science is not all following this reductionist, Richard Dawkins-style paradigm that we’ve been talking about, seeing the world as just a machine and our whole relationship with nature is just to conquer it.

But in fact, there’s a very powerful branch of modern science called “systems thinking.” You might know it as chaos theory, complexity theory, or just systems theory. And basically it’s the science of understanding the connections between things. And it’s every bit as rigorous and accepted mainstream as reductionist science. There are all kinds of prize-winning Nobel laureates from systems thinking too. But most people are unaware of how powerful it is. And the thing that I found so fascinating is that what modern systems science is working to study is the very same principles of organization that traditional Chinese thought understood so well, as they tried to understand how the universe worked.

So the idea behind liology is to explore this amazing intersection between modern scientific understanding of the world and traditional wisdom, and come up with a world view that is integrated. One that recognizes humans being embedded within the natural world, and one that’s also very rigorous scientifically, so it can’t be dismissed by modern generations of thinkers as kind of woo-woo or just sort of not valid. It shows from a scientific perspective as well as a traditional perspective how the true identity of who we are as human beings is this mind-body organism embedded within nature. And for us to flourish, nature has to flourish too.

DJ: Which is frankly kind of embarrassing that you and I both have to write books explaining that without nature, we’re dead. I mean, that’s just kind of sad and silly.

JL: It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? I mean, right to the place where you have people like Elon Musk now talking about how we’ve got to set up a colony on Mars so that we have this kind of contingency plan if we screw up the earth so much. Just such amazing idiocy to think that some sort of heroic technology is the solution to our problems, rather than just allowing the earth to be a flourishing place.

DJ: And I just read yesterday that Stephen Hawking is saying that we need to leave the earth too, because we’re killing it. This reminds me, the image that comes to mind is you’re burning down your own house and saying “Gosh, I think we’re going to have to move.” I mean, you could stop burning down your house.

But that leads to the question of how is it that these metaphors are so strong that they can compel us to actually wiping out the capacity of the earth to support much life, including ours, including possibly the oceans. We can argue about what might be left afterwards. But the real point is; isn’t it extraordinary that these metaphors are so incredibly powerful that they can influence us, even to this degree?

JL: That is just so true. And that’s where – there are kind of different layers to get at this really profound question that you’re asking. One, just from a cognitive layer, is what it’s so amazing to understand, is how as humans we are truly driven by the core metaphors that we buy into. Our worldview really is what makes us do what we do. That’s one of the lessons from this book, is that the course of history is based on these things.

And then to take that question to the next level, how did this “nature is a machine” or “conquer nature” metaphor get to be so dominant? And to trace that, we have to look at the way that the Europeans, empowered by this scientific revolution, empowered by this kind of sense of what they could do over nature, and this readiness to disrupt both nature and other societies. How they basically took this amazing destructive energy and applied it to the whole world. So over the course of a few hundred years, what was once a way of thinking that was limited to a small portion of the world became the sort of global dominant way of thinking.

But I think that maybe the most important way to look at this question is to look at how that has now transformed in the last century or so. And I think what we see when we look at that now is our world right now is dominated by the kinds of myths and ideas and the truths or untruths that the media puts out. And that media is dominated by basically global capitalist, these gigantic global corporations.

And so sometimes I think that what are the most important kind of entailments of these western metaphors of “conquer nature,” with this creation of the corporation – at first, it just seemed like a pretty simple, practical solution to a problem or whatever. But these are corporations that have been set up with the pathological optimization of simply increasing shareholder value, which means monetizing humans and the natural world to the maximum extent possible, with no other care about anything else.

So what’s happened is these powerful forces have begun to spread through the world regardless of what’s actually beneficial for humans, or nature, or any other creature other than this kind of abstraction that has been created, this notion of maximizing shareholder value. And that’s I think what we need to understand in our modern era, is that this has become so dominant that it’s really throttling the life out of the earth right now, and for no individual’s benefit other than some billionaire’s.

But ultimately what’s driving it is this abstraction of these kinds of corporations monetizing nature for no other reason than that’s what they were set up to do.

DJ: You know, this really reminds me of Lewis Mumford and his authoritarian technics. That some pieces of technology, according to Mumford, and I really agree with this, actually end up – we end up serving them, as opposed to them serving us. And that’s clearly what’s happening with corporations, they create this tool that ostensibly had a specific function, to build a bridge, to do whatever it is they’re going to do, and then like you were just saying, they end up basically controlling politics.

You know, I used to ask people at my talks if they believed that the government takes better care of human beings or corporations, and in all the years of asking that question, I never had a single person say “human beings.”

JL: Right. And of course, even to the extent that that was somewhat concealed by rhetoric in the past, with this current regime in Washington, it’s not even concealed anymore. It’s just absolutely explicit that we live, in this country, not just in an oligarchy but in a kleptocracy. It’s a group of people who are out there openly and explicitly working hard to steal as much as they can from the rest of the people, not to mention the natural world.

DJ: So let’s come back to the core metaphor. I think that’s so important. Two things: one of them is, it seems to me that one of the problems with the core metaphor that is dominating western civilization is that it gives those who believe it a competitive advantage, a short term competitive advantage over those who don’t, because it’s more efficient at creating weapons of war, such that if you believe that what you want to do with the forests of England or India or whatever, is cut them down and make warships, you will be better able to conquer somebody who believes the forest is a place to live and doesn’t make warships.

JL: I think you’re right. I think that is the story of how western – how basically a few countries in western Europe got to dominate the whole world, because of that dynamic you just described.

DJ: And also it has to do with those core values, even without the physical differences in the world. Because let’s say you and I are neighbors and you hav a set of morals where you believe that one should not steal from one’s neighbors, and my morals are such that I believe that I can steal from anybody I want, including my neighbor, as long as you don’t see me; then the chances are really good that at some point a lot of the things that were in your home are going to end up in mine, based on our having different core values.

JL: Yeah, and that’s so interesting. There’s kind of like a subtheme that you see in my book, the question of how do these sort of different dynamics evolve in different cultures? What’s so interesting is that if you look at the cultures that hunter-gatherers had, for basically 95 plus percent of human history, it was an absolutely egalitarian culture. And you had these bands where no one person would become the big chief and do just what you described. So you might ask, well, how did that happen? Oftentimes people call that the free-rider problem, people who study this in evolutionary psychology and things like that. And the free-rider problem is exactly what you just described; how do you stop this one person from taking advantage of the community and blowing it for everyone?

And hunter-gatherers had a whole set of very sophisticated community dynamics they used to engage in to prevent that. Basically what it was all about was that if some male, it was always a male, got to be too big for his britches, they’d use things like mockery, basically sort of bringing him down to size in ways that the community could keep him from getting out of control.

But that got blown apart with agriculture, because when people started to settle down, and started to have possessions, the inequalities got to be so big that they overrode those old traditional hunter-gatherer dynamics.

But I think that we can learn from that. And if we look at where we are today, you know the irony is that the vast bulk of human beings don’t like what they see going on. They believe in decency, they believe in a sense of fairness. They don’t want to see a few billionaires take all the power away from the rest of us. They want to see their neighbors live in dignity. But they’ve been trained to believe there’s nothing that we can do about it.

And I do think the sources for hope come from ways in which we can connect up with each other, and to propagate new approaches to value that relate ultimately to core human attributes. You know, to that sense of fair play and community. And I think that we do see a lot of those things going on right now. One example is; on the one hand we see Trump, this misogynist-in-chief, spouting his hate and sexism and racism, and then we see what’s recently been happening with the “me too” response to Harvey Weinstein. And you see this amazing power of grassroots people connecting up, saying “We’re not going to take this shit anymore. We’re going to do something about it and we’re going to share our common humanity with each other.”

And that underlying force sometimes does give me a lot of hope in the face of what could otherwise be despair.

DJ: We’ve got six or eight minutes left, and I’m going to throw three questions at you, which you can either take or ignore, or do whatever you want with.

Well no, actually I’m going to throw one at you first. Before we started recording, we also talked about the question of hope, and we talked about how does one find hope, and then I said to you something that somebody said to me 20 years ago; this great activist came up to me and said that sometimes she feels like the only things that keep her going are rage and sorrow. And then can you pick up our conversation from there, and say what you said to me before, which I thought was really moving.

JL: What occurred to me was something I had come across just recently in this great book Daniel Pinchbeck has written, called How Soon is Now? Which looks at the same kinds of issues that we’re both discussing here right now. And he quotes somebody who refers back to that old Joseph Campbell quote, that I bet a lot of listeners know, where Joseph Campbell said, “Well what you need to do in your life is follow your bliss.” And when we look at what’s going on in the world right now, and as activists we say “What the hell can we do about this?” the new riff on that quote is “Follow your heartbreak.”

And when I read that, that moved me so profoundly, because that is exactly where it’s at. The deepest connections we have are being pulled apart by our destructive society. And for us to really have the biggest impact on trying to take that back, take life back, it has to come from our core heart and soul, like “Where is that heartbreak?”

Because it gets tiring after awhile and you can get really demoralized in the face of so much bad stuff that seems to come piling on. But when you’re really feeling that heartbreak, that really drives to a sense of meaning in what we’re doing.

DJ: Now I want to ask the last two questions. One is “How do we currently change these core metaphors? How do we shift them toward nondestructive ends before this culture kills the planet?” And the other question would be “how do people get more in touch with your work aside from reading your excellent book The Patterning Instinct? Can you tell them how they can connect to the Liology Institute?

So those are the two questions. On a global scale, how do we change the core metaphors, and then how can people connect to the Liology Institute?

JL: Thank you. Yes, I think that is the key question. How do we change from where the world is going right now? And I do think that there are alternative core metaphors for us to connect with. And that’s where the book kind of leads us, is to recognize that we could see, rather than this kind of split universe, where nature is this kind of machine, both from modern systems thinking and from traditional insights from indigenous societies and traditional Chinese thought, we could recognize that the world is actually more like a web of meaning, and this place where everything connects with everything else. And if we then focus on that sense of connectivity as what is truly meaningful, that begins to have implications for every single thing we do in our lives. We can begin to see, even within ourselves, we can look at that connectivity and move away from that split, mind-body dualism we were talking about before, and really begin to honor our own feelings and move into a place of integration of all the different things we’re feeling.

And that integration itself can lead us to take the suffering we get when we see all the terrible things that are going on around us, and move that towards a sense of engagement with community. And when we look at that sense of connection in terms of what it means as human beings, it’s really about moving based on human connectedness, recognizing that humans are really all one connected family.

And so rather than focusing on the separations; our community vs. other communities; or our country, America First! vs. the rest of the world; western ideas vs. fears about Islamic extremism; all these places of separation we have; recognizing the shared humanity that we all have. That actions based on that are ones that can lead to a sustainable society. And then finally is the connectivity with the natural world, even seeing that humans are not separate from nature.

Back at Cop 21 in Paris a couple of years ago, there were some signs there that I just loved, which basically said “We are not defending nature. We are nature, defending itself.” Once we recognize that sense of connectivity all around us, all the different actions we do can be based on a fundamentally different metaphor from the one that our corporate-driven society is destroying the world with.

And to answer your final question, and thank you for that, certainly if you’re interested in finding out more about the themes about the patterning instinct, or just more about my work in general, you can visit my website at . And if you’re interested in this framework of liology, this kind of integrated framework that could really offer a sustainable future for humanity to flourish on this planet, again, just go to . You’ll see a lot about the institute there and the kind of values that we’re promoting there.

DJ: And I know you also do workshops at the Liology Institute. Do you have any workshops coming up?

JL: We’ve just finished workshops for this year. I do twelve over a six month period here in the Bay area. We explore what it means to be connected. So things like we take a particular theme, some of them coming from traditional Chinese thought, some of them coming from systems ideas, and explore what that means in terms of our own lived experience and our own way of relating to the world. We have things like guided meditation and traditional energy practices, like Chi Gong, as well as some dance and discussion. And so I don’t have any of those coming up now until next year. But if you’re interested in those – I’m going to probably explore doing some of those through webinars too. So if anyone is interested in finding out more about that, just get in touch with me through . The contact form is right there, and I’ll let you know if we have any kind of web-based workshops coming up next year.

DJ: Well thank you so much for your work, and thank you for being on the program. I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Jeremy Lent, this is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on November 12th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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