Thoughts on child rearing and family planning

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Khalil Gibran

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...
Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like this poem by Khalil Gibran. Yes, children come through their parents but not from them, and children possess their own thoughts and their own soul, not their parents. While parents can have a hand in nurturing and guiding children especially at the initial stage of their growth and development, they need to allow freedom for their children to express their own authentic self and cultivate their own ideologies and belief systems.

On a similar note, I think the proverb “train up a child in the way he should go” has sometimes been used by religious parents to control their children and impose their ideologies on them, which is unfortunate. I learnt that the proverb actually meant in the original Hebrew to bring up children according to their natural bent or inclination (or individual gift). I think this interpretation is more in line with the wisdom in Khalil Gibran’s poem as it pertains to recognising each child is unique, and giving the child the space and freedom to express his or her unique personality and individual gifts. For example, whether the child wants to be a free thinker is up to them, and I admire parents who respect children’s rights and freedom to be themselves and think for themselves.

VHEMT Volunteers love babies as much as anyone else. “Having babies” is not so much the problem—having adults is what’s causing the problems. The environmental impact of disposable diapers is heavy, but we are adults much longer than we are children.

People who envision having a baby often forget that they are creating an entirely new human being who will leave in a few years as an adult.

Youth is a wonderful phase of life, whether it’s people, panda, or panther. It’s sad to imagine there being no more of any of them. A baby condor may not be as cute as a baby human, but we must choose to forgo one if the others are to survive.

Children’s welfare will improve as there are fewer of them to care for. Considering the future world we are creating for future generations, procreation today is like renting rooms in a burning building—renting them to our children no less.

Choosing to refrain from producing another person demonstrates a profound love for all life.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)

Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on ...
Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, generally speaking, having fewer children enables parents to devote more time and resources on them and focus on providing for their needs better, given the constraints of the environment. It will also help in environmental conservation in the long run, especially when more families adopt this wise and sustainable approach to family planning. Even in the natural world, animals such as emperor penguins have built-in wisdom in family planning – they usually have only one kid during each breeding season so that the parents can devote their time and energy to look after their children until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This is vital since they live in Antarctica where food is only found in the seas, and the climate is very cold, and survival itself can be challenging. Humans can learn from the natural world and plan their own families accordingly, so as to ensure their future generations can have their needs met in the long run without putting a strain on the environment.

“The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring. The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km (31–75 mi) over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony.”

(From Wikipedia)

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IRON: A connection between stars and us

Regarding the intriguing quote about our origin, especially the origin of the iron in our blood being from distant stars billions of years ago, I was googling about this to get a better understanding, and came upon this article.

“Here’s an amazing fact for your next cocktail party: Every single atom in your body—the calcium in your bones, the carbon in your genes, the iron in your blood, the gold in your filling—was created in a star billions of years ago. All except atoms of hydrogen and one or two of the next lightest elements. They were formed even earlier, shortly after the Big Bang began 13.7 billion years ago.”

(From “The Star in You“)

The article went on to say that after an ancient star died and exploded into a supernova, dispersing its elements into the surrounding space, the stardust may eventually form a solar system consisting of planets and the sun, such as the solar system we live. The mystery remains as to how the atoms and molecules on our planet eventually become alive as we know it.

“Just how those atoms and molecules that ended up on our planet went from non-living to living remains one of the great unanswered questions in science. But where the elements came from to start with has now been worked out, in broad strokes anyway, to astrophysicists’ widespread satisfaction. It is an amazing story, isn’t it?”

(From “The Star in You“)

Solar System
Solar System (Photo credit: Joe Plocki (turbojoe))

I am also reminded from health articles I read so far that iron is important in our blood as it carries oxygen in the red blood cells. For some reasons, dark green leafy vegetables and beans, among others, contain more of this stardust than other plants. Who would have thought iron in stars can become life sustaining mineral for us?

Perhaps a greater mystery as to what causes iron in stars to become life sustaining minerals in our body is what holds everything in the universe, including the atoms in our body, together. It may take a moment in time or an eternity to appreciate the wonders of this mystery.

 

Vastness and voyage of discovery

Teklanika river valley panorama (Source: Wikipedia)

“Normally, we limit the meaning of perceptions. Food reminds us of eating; dirt reminds us to clean the house; snow reminds us that we have to clean off the car to get to work; a face reminds us of our love or hate. In other words, we fit what we see into a comfortable or familiar scheme. We shut any vastness or possibilities of deeper perception out of our hearts by fixating on our own interpretation of phenomena. But it is possible to go beyond personal interpretation, to let vastness into our hearts through the medium of perception. We always have a choice: we can limit our perception so that we close off vastness, or we can allow vastness to touch us.”

Chogyam Trungpa

It’s true that we live in a multi-dimensional universe in which each phenomenon can have more than one interpretation. Perhaps there is a built-in tendency in the human psyche to simplify and categorise phenomena to standardise meanings for everyone in order to achieve some form of order and understanding for the majority, if not everyone. For example, road signs and traffic lights are designed to communicate only one meaning to everyone – red light means stop, orange light means slow down, and green light means go. In the context of traffic communications, there is not much room for any other interpretation. But the very attempts to simplify the meanings of phenomena in some other contexts can limit people’s perceptions.

Like what the above quote says, we all can allow vastness to touch us even as we recognise we live in a multi-dimensional world. We can see the same phenomena through different eyes and come to a broader understanding of the world we live in. Sometimes, our interpretation goes beyond words because words are only a means to an end, and words can only convey so much meanings to communicate conceptual ideas about something. When that happens, we can turn to art, poetry and music, which transcend language barriers and speak to us in ways that are beyond the literal meanings of words.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

In some other cases, silence is the best way to behold and appreciate the vastness of universe as we meditate or contemplate on the phenomena we encounter. What that happens, traffic and traffic lights can become to us more than what they are supposed to be. We may see beyond the colours, the motion of vehicles, and the seeming routine and humdrum of transport and communications. The buildings and roads in the cities may become no different from mountains and valleys in a countryside: Same structures, different materials but same origin. Both urban and rural landscapes come from distant stars in their atomical composition, which brings us to my next post about iron and stars.

Blurring of lines between Nature and Us: Buildings and roads in a city resemble mountains and valleys in a countryside.
A view of the Bear River near Fielding, Utah (Source: http://www.artbyearthlings.com/blog/)

We are all in this together and we are here for one another

I like what Matthew Fox shared in “Creation Spirituality“.

1. The universe is fundamentally a blessing. Our relationship with the Universe fills us with awe.

2. In Creation, God is both immanent and transcendent. This is panentheism which is not theism (God out there) and not atheism (no God anywhere). We experience that the Divine is in all things & all things are in the Divine.

3. God is as much Mother as Father, as much Child as Parent, as much God in mystery as the God in history, as much beyond all words and images as in all forms and beings. We are liberated from the need to cling to God in one form or one literal name.

4. In our lives, it is through the work of spiritual practice that we find our deep and true selves. Through the arts of meditation and silence we cultivate a clarity of mind and move beyond fear into compassion and community.

5. Our inner work can be understood as a four-fold journey involving:
– awe, delight, amazement (known as the Via Positiva)
– uncertainty, darkness, suffering, letting go (Via Negativa)
– birthing, creativity, passion (Via Creativa)
– justice, healing, celebration (Via Transformativa)
We weave through these paths like a spiral danced, not a ladder climbed.

6. Every one of us is a mystic. We can enter the mystical as much through beauty (Via Positiva) as through contemplation and suffering (Via Negativa). We are born full of wonder and can recover it at any age.

7. Every one of us is an artist. Whatever the expression of our creativity, it is our prayer and praise (Via Creativa).

8. Every one of us is a prophet. Our prophetic work is to interfere with all forms of injustice and that which interrupts authentic life (Via Transformativa).

9. Diversity is the nature of the Universe. We rejoice in and courageously honor the rich diversity within the Cosmos and expressed among individuals and across multiple cultures, religions and ancestral traditions.

10. The basic work of God is compassion and we, who are all original blessings and sons and daughters of the Divine, are called to compassion. We acknowledge our shared interdependence; we rejoice at one another’s joys and grieve at one another’s sorrows and labor to heal the causes of those sorrows.

11. There are many wells of faith and knowledge drawing from one underground river of Divine wisdom. The practice of honoring, learning and celebrating the wisdom collected from these wells is Deep Ecumenism. We respect and embrace the wisdom and oneness that arises from the diverse wells of all the sacred traditions of the world.

12. Ecological justice is essential for the sustainability of life on Earth.
Ecology is the local expression of cosmology and so we commit to live in light of this value: to pass on the beauty and health of Creation to future generations.

I think Matthew Fox’s outline of the creation spirituality provides hope and vision for humanity to work together to heal divisions and bridge differences between one another as well as take concrete actions to conserve the environment. When more and more people realise that we are all connected, we will all commit to live in the light of our ecological and cosmological interconnectedness, and so pass on the beauty and health of Creation to our future generations. I like what he shared in the quote below. 

“There’s no such thing as a Jewish ocean and a Lutheran sun and a Buddhist river and a Taoist forest and a Roman Catholic cornfield. Once you move to the level of creation, you’re into an era of deep ecumenism, and I think for Mother Earth to survive we need this awakening of wisdom from all world religions, and not just the five-thousand-year-old patriarchal ones, but the goddess religions, the religions of the native peoples of America, Africa, and Asia, and I think this and this alone is going to awaken the human race — this combination of mystical wisdom — to its own salvation.

A map of the world, showing the major religion...
A map of the world, showing the major religions distributed in the world as of today. A different type of map which views only the religion as a whole excluding denominations or sects of the religions, and is colored by how the religions are distributed not by main religion of country etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The beauty of science

I like the poem by Walt Whitman shared in the video – that somehow the charts and diagrams and figures and columns used to explain the stars do not quite do justice to the mystique and mystery of stars, and the poet decided to wander off by himself and looked up in perfect silence in the mystical moist night-air at the stars. Yes, sometimes, silence is the best response to appreciate the beauty of science, as we behold the glory of the universe with awe and wonder. There are times I looked at the majesty of some natural phenomena and was left speechless.

Earlier this afternoon I took a longer route to go for lunch, passing by rows of houses and a patch of rainforest, and upon returning to office, I decided to take a lift up to the top of a housing board flat, and look at the rainforest from above. Seeing the remnant of the rainforest amidst the suburban houses and flats filled me with a sense of awe – I wish this part of the land remains untouched and undeveloped for as long as it is necessary (see photo below).

20121119-211842.jpg

Thoughts on an introduction to a resource-based economy

Video information

*Please sign up for our main Mailing List:
http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/

*This is the 18 min video backup for the live March 21st, TEDx [Portugal] Talk by Peter Joseph called: “An Introduction to a Resource-Based Economy “.

I have checked out Peter Joseph’s video introduction of the resource-based economy. Like what he shared, the current socioeconomic system is flawed in many ways as it results in inequality, starvation, ecological harm and so on because of the self-serving property-based system. I agree that an access-based system that serves to meet the needs of the current world population and future generations while conserving the environment at the same time would be an ideal system worth considering and implementing.

I see this proposed idea of the resource-based system as a natural progression that is in step with the rise in collective evolution of humanity. As people continue to evolve and acknowledge our oneness and interconnectedness, more and more of us are finding that the outdated monetary system is flawed and a new and more equitable system is needed to ensure sustainable use of resources to meet the needs of ourselves and our future generations without further harming our environment.

Related articles

The world we dream

Look at Mars in this video.

Video information

The World We Dream — Jill Tarter, Chair, SETI Institute. Putting a man on the moon was once simply a dream. What are some of today’s most innovative and thought provoking visions for our future? Image: NASA/JAXA

This is a fascinating message about how we all came to know and understand ourselves better as a collective humanity or earthlings, even as we seek to know the universe outside of our planet. The red planet Mars looks intriguing, and I hope more studies can be made on this planet as time goes by.

Phoenix and the American Flag on Mars
Phoenix and the American Flag on Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As shared by the presenter, perhaps extraterrestrial life does not necessarily live by the same principles of nature that we earthlings do, such as being dependent on liquid water for survival. I agree with the message that when we look at ourselves from a cosmic perspective, we all can learn to celebrate our commonalities instead of letting our perceived differences divide us. After all, we are also intergalactic beings, not just earthlings – as the message puts it, we are made of stardust and we have come a long way to study the evolution of stars (ourselves) today.

The Story of Us

Video information

http://symphonyofscience.com A musical celebration of humanity, its origins, and achievements, contrasted with a somber look at our environmentally destructive tendencies and deep similarities with other primates. Featuring Jacob Bronowski, Alice Roberts, Carolyn Porco, Jane Goodall, Robert Sapolsky, Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough.

“Children of Africa” is the tenth installment in the ongoing Symphony of Science music video series. Materials used in the creation of this video are from:

BBC Incredible Human Journey
BBC Ascent of Man
BBC Life of Mammals
BBC Human Planet
BBC Walking With Cavemen
Carolyn Porco: Hollywood
Quest for Fire
Hubblecast 29A
What Makes Us Human (Leakey Foundation)
What Separates Us from Chimps (Sapolsky)
Chimpanzee
Neil Tyson – Human Intelligence
Gemini Observatory Time-lapse

mp3: http://symphonyofscience.com

Rights to use Carl Sagan have been put on hold for the time being. Please be patient if you wish to see more Carl!

Special thanks to everybody who’s donated to keep the project alive and to those who helped track down the materials used in this video.

To download and watch more videos visit http://symphonyofscience.com.

Enjoy!

~John
john@symphonyofscience.com

Lyrics:

[Jacob Bronowski]
Man is a singular creature;
He has a set of gifts which make him unique among the animals
So that unlike them, he is not a figure in the landscape
He is the shaper of the landscape

[Alice Roberts]
We are all children of Africa
They say this is where it all began

[Bronowski]
In a parched African landscape
Man first put his foot to the ground

[Roberts]
Africa was our only home
for tens of thousands of years
until a small handful of people made their way
out of Africa

[Carolyn Porco]
These beings with soaring imagination
Eventually flung themselves and their machines
Into interplanetary space

[Roberts]
We are all children of africa
This landscape has been home to humans
Two hundred thousand years

[Porco]
We have come so far
All of this is cause for great celebration
We have come so far
This is a story about us

[Roberts]
Those early Europeans
Were people like you and me
But it is humbling
When you see the challenges they faced

People like you and me
Overcame the Neanderthals
People like you and me
Made it through the ice age

[Refrain]

[Jane Goodall]
We are not the only beings
With personalities, minds, and feelings
Chimpanzees have very clear personalities

[Robert Sapolsky]
Take a chimp brain foetally
And let it go two or three more rounds of division
And out comes symphonies and ideology

[Neil deGrasse Tyson]
Everything that we are
That distinguishes us from chimps
Emerges from that one percent
Difference in DNA

[Roberts]
People like you and me
Overcame the Neaderthals
People like you and me
Made it through the ice age

[Refrain]

[David Attenborough]
Using his burgeoning intelligence,
This most successful of all mammals
Has exploited the environment to produce food
For an ever increasing population.

Instead of controlling the environment
For the benefit of the population
Perhaps it’s time we controlled the population
To allow the survival of the environment

I enjoyed watching the musical celebration of humanity and our origins and achievements. Yes we are all children of Africa, which is said to be the birthplace of the human race. From what I have learnt, Africa is our motherland and our ancestors migrated from Africa to other parts of the world. I also learnt about a recent documentary called “Motherland” some time ago that paid tribute to our motherland. 

I recognise David Attenborough in the music video as I used to watch his BBC nature documentary series called The Living Planet when I was at a young age.  I also has his book of the same title published by Readers Digest. I like learning about nature and our interrelationship with our Mother Earth.

Need to consider implementing GMO labelling of genetically modified foods

Stop! Genetically modified organism(s) - GMO. ...
Stop! Genetically modified organism(s) – GMO. Read comments! (Photo credit: artist in doing nothing)

About genetically modified (GM) foods

According to Wikipedia, genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as genetically modified crops or genetically modified fish. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques.

This website summarises the benefits and controversies of GM products.

About the need to implement GMO labelling of GM foods

Recently, I came across this newspaper article about food labelling in supermarkets in Singapore to encourage people to buy healthier food. While that is good, I realise there is no GMO labelling implemented yet. So I decided to email the following letter to the newspaper to highlight the issue. I had also hoped that the Proposition 37 on GMO labelling of foods in California would come into fruition on 6 November 2012, as Singapore and other countries tend to follow America’s lead in many areas of life.

I refer to the article “Labels in supermarkets to guide the Healthy Shopper” published in The Sunday Times on 28 October 2012. While it is good to know that food labelling will be carried out in supermarkets to identify the healthier foods to encourage consumers to buy more of them, there is no GMO labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods implemented in Singapore yet. This is a worrying trend because more and more studies have shown that GM foods are potentially dangerous to human health.

For example, the Health Ranger of NaturalNews Network, a non-profit collection of public education websites, explained in his video entitled “How GMO foods alter organ function and pose a very real health threat to humans” that cell research shows that the microRNA in GM foods may alter organ functions in the human body by changing the biological information and suppressing natural functions in vital organs, which may in the long run cause cancer tumours, infertility and so on. It is useful then for more people to be aware of the dangers of eating GM foods.

According to the Institute of Responsible Technology, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food”, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has also asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.

Besides, we all have the right as consumers to know what is in our food. According to LabelGmos.org, 50 countries with over 40% of the world’s population already label genetically engineered foods, including China and the entire European Union. Even in America, California is looking set to become the first US state to enforce labelling of GM foods, in a vote on 6 November 2012.

It is therefore high time for Singapore to follow suit to give consumers the right to know what is in their food. As noted by our Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has shown “our Government’s seriousness in creating a healthy nation”, so I see no reason that the food labelling programme would stop at identifying healthier foods and exclude GMO labelling. I strongly urge the relevant authorities to seriously consider implementing GMO labelling in Singapore for our health’s sake.

My letter was published on 4 November 2012 in The Sunday Times entitled “Label genetically modified food too”, which has been edited and truncated, probably for brevity.


As of today, it has been reported that the Proposition 37 to label GMO foods in California has failed, since the number of people who voted “No” had slightly outnumbered those who voted “Yes” on 6 November 2012. Nevertheless, there is still hope since at least the campaign has raised awareness among more people about the GMO issue.

In many ways, the YES on 37 campaign was a huge victory for awareness. The campaign organized over 10,000 volunteers in California alone and succeeded in achieving a massive social media presence.

The YES on 37 campaign also forced Monsanto and the biotech giants to spend $45 million to defeat the measure. That’s a record expenditure by the world’s largest toxic pesticide companies to try to prevent consumers from knowing what they’re buying. Remember: GMOs are the only products that consumers accidentally purchase without knowing what they’re buying.

What’s clear from all this is that GMO labeling has a foothold in the minds of American consumers, and this effort to label GMOs is going to be repeated state after state, year after year, until victory is achieved.

Recommended links

Seven Things to Tell Your Friends About GMOs

GMO – Their right to grow, our right to know

Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives

Prop 37 and GMO Foods: Yea or Nay?

Prop 37 GMO Labeling Law Defeated By Corporate Dollars And Deception, Proponents Say

Right to Know Election Statement

Life in the Universe

Video information:

Speaker: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAD25s53wmE

Animation: The Known Universe by AMNH http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

Music: Main Titles (Spider-Man OST) by Danny Elfman

Arranged by Mike Solow

It’s noteworthy that the same ingredients for life in our body, such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, are found throughout the universe. We are indeed one with the universe, as proven by science. I think such scientific developments are part of the human evolutionary process today to rediscover our connectedness with the universe, which ancient wisdom has always taught and somehow modern humans have lost sight of along the way, and are now reawakening to the truth of our oneness, thanks to quantum science and astrophysics.