Thursday, August 8, 2013


Climbing the ladder of Awareness:

  1. Dead asleep. At this stage there seem to be no fundamental problems, just some shortcomings in human organization, behaviour and morality that can be fixed with the proper attention to rule-making. People at this stage tend to live their lives happily, with occasional outbursts of annoyance around election times or the quarterly corporate earnings seasons.

  2. Awareness of one fundamental problem. Whether it's Climate Change, overpopulation, Peak Oil, chemical pollution, oceanic over-fishing, biodiversity loss, corporatism, economic instability or sociopolitical injustice, one problem seems to engage the attention completely. People at this stage tend to become ardent activists for their chosen cause. They tend to be very vocal about their personal issue, and blind to any others.

  3. Awareness of many problems. As people let in more evidence from different domains, the awareness of complexity begins to grow.  At this point a person worries about the prioritization of problems in terms of their immediacy and degree of impact. People at this stage may become reluctant to acknowledge new problems - for example, someone who is committed to fighting for social justice and against climate change may not recognize the problem of resource depletion.  They may feel that the problem space is already complex enough, and the addition of any new concerns will only dilute the effort that needs to be focused on solving the "highest priority" problem.

  4. Awareness of the interconnections between the many problems. The realization that a solution in one domain may worsen a problem in another marks the beginning of large-scale system-level thinking. It also marks the transition from thinking of the situation in terms of a set of problems to thinking of it in terms of a predicament. At this point the possibility that there may not be a solution begins to raise its head.

    People who arrive at this stage tend to withdraw into tight circles of like-minded individuals in order to trade insights and deepen their understanding of what's going on. These circles are necessarily small, both because personal dialogue is essential for this depth of exploration, and because there just aren't very many people who have arrived at this level of understanding.

  5. Awareness that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life.  This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization, the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration or acceptance. The very concept of a "Solution" is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.

I would comfortably say I am at step 5, but this has only happened fairly recently. The past few years have been been a move from 3-4 as I spent a lot of time online doing research, reading a ton of books, and talking to a lot of people.
I hope in some way this blog can help bring people along in their awareness and ultimately lead to self-awareness. The problems that confront this modern era have roots reaching back thousands, if not millions of years. Some of them are tied into the fundamental laws of nature. But if I have learned one thing in my time as a Vipassana meditator, it is that everything is impermanent. Change is inevitable and we can change ourselves at a very deep and fundamental level. In order to fix the problems facing life on planet earth, we must first confront the problems that lie within. The liberation of humanity first lies in the liberation of the self from suffering.


  1. I like your analysis of humanity in terms of "levels of awareness" in many ways, but then I have a difficult time identifying where--and admittedly the levels are in "shades of gray,"--I might fit in. Though perhaps it's not possible for any of us to be completely "pigeon-holed" in any framework.

    I've deliberately sought out "circles" of people who are most definitely not "like-minded"
    with me in many/most ways in order to find commonalities and to find ways to put seeming "differences"--which may not be important at all--aside. This has not always been a pleasant experience. Still, I perservere.

    A commenter over at Sardonicky recently accused me of "intellectual jousting," which I hope is not true of me. Still, I do enjoy the give-and-take of the exploration of new ideas. Is that a bad thing?

    So where do those of us who are on a journey of exploration--and possible conflict--fall? I must admit that my scientific training gives me a sense of the importance of prioritization (Level 3), yet I do enjoy the personal dialogue that I've experienced at Sardonicky, before that, RealityChex, and now, perhaps, here.

  2. The levels of awareness are not mine, I borrowed them from this website:
    There are a lot of interesting articles and many of his ideas are very much in line with my own.

    I think it is always a good thing to challenge one's own assumptions and beliefs, if you have a community of 'different' minded people to bounce ideas off of, it's even better. I have a close friend out here who I talk with a lot and we constantly play devil's advocate in order to see our own biases and view them from multiple angles. It is this lack of critical dialog that can be seen at the root of many of the problems facing humanity. So keep up the intellectual jousting! What a wonderful thing to be accused of. You may be the only person reading this blog, but I am glad to have a forum where I can put forth my ideas and have someone from a much different background to discuss things with.

    As far as climbing the ladder, you are where you are and that is all that matters. It isn't a race or a goal. Level 5 came upon my quite suddenly and with immense repercussion towards my ability to coexist in a society I feel no attachment to. So be where you are, keep being curious, and keep asking the hard questions of yourself and of others.

    Here are a few websites that helped me along on my path and showed me the world from a variety of viewpoints.