The Maine Legislature has established a  Citizens Trade Policy Commission which has been holding hearings on the Trans Pacific Partnership — a treaty on the fast track for approval, a treaty which is designed to promote the kind of growth that will help make irreversible Climate Change inevitable and will profoundly undermine democracy in Maine and in the US at large. For an elaboration of my reasons for saying this, you can read the remarks that follow which I had the privilege of sharing with the Commission last Thursday evening.

Remarks for the  Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership — Thursday, December 11th, 2015 at Rangely Hall, Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor, Maine

From J. Gray Cox,

9 ½ Cleftstone Road

Bar Harbor, Maine 04609


My name is Gray Cox. I grew up in Bar Harbor and teach at College of the Atlantic. I want to start by thanking you for providing this opportunity for us to gather and to speak. This is a dark time of year and in many ways a dark season in which to be living. But it is a delight to come in to this large, spacious, open room that is so full of light and have the opportunity to listen and share our concerns and views. It is the sort of thing we do here in Maine, in town meetings, public hearings, church groups, libraries and all kinds of other settings – come together to care for our communities.

I want to specially make mention of my gratitude for this opportunity tonight because this gathering represents precisely the kind of thing that defines us as Mainers and that threatened by the TPP and its mechanisms for undermining and supplanting our democratic practices in towns and states and even at the federal level.

The issues at stake here cross party lines. They invite us to stop thinking like Republicans and Democrats because of this. We need to think like Americans and Mainers. We have to think in terms of the whole BECAUSE this is a treaty that will change our whole relationship with the Pacific Rim AND, more importantly, with the systems of governance we have developed over the last 400 years in this land. I would like to begin my comments by reaffirming a comment made by Represetnative Sharon Anglin Treat in her December 1 “SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES IN THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) AGREEMENT” ( . The comment concerns the ways in which the proposed agreement will effectively give up the sovereignty of our federal, state and local governments and pass it on to a system of committees dominated by corporate interests.

As Rep. Treat notes:

“Negotiated in complete secrecy over a period of six years, the 12-country TPP is now in final form and cannot be changed. Congress can only vote to accept or reject it. Nonetheless, this agreement is a “living agreement” that additional countries can join in the future, and will put into place roughly 20 committees to manage trade in agriculture, government procurement, the Internet, food safety, financial regulation, and other topics covered in the deal. Some committees have narrow authority, but others are open-ended in scope. Like the negotiation process that created TPP, many of these ongoing committees, even those dealing with public health and food safety, will be subject to confidentiality provisions that will hamper scientific peer review of their activities and limit public and consumer oversight of their activities. And, unlike a state or federal law that can be repealed when new information comes to light or conditions change, trade agreements require the agreement of all parties to commence negotiations to make changes, which as a practical matter will not occur.”


People who are advocating for this treaty and the transformations it will bring in our governance systems will tell you that it is about three things, three things that frame its importance and value. They will say it is, first, about whether we want to have a rational economic policy that follows modern economic theory in advancing our national economy as a whole by seeking benefits of trade in what is called “comparative advantage”. Second, they will tell you that it is about whether Pacific Rim economies in particular – and the world economy in general – are going to be dominated by the Chinese or by us. Third, they will tell you that it is about whether we want to pursue development as a free market, capitalist society or promote the government regulations and interventions of a socialist society.

Each of these three ways of framing the issue is fundamentally mistaken.

Regarding the first, the theory of comparative advantage, like the Newtonian physics that was believed at the time David Ricardo developed it, holds true in some limited circumstances but not in others – and it most especially does not hold true in our circumstances today.

The basic theory of comparative advantage suggests each country is better off if we each specialize – producing whatever our natural resources, capital and labor best fit us for. But, first, it is crucial to note that the comparative advantages are often to corporations not to average citizens. When the comparative advantage is that they have lower taxes or other costs because they lack health care, education, and workplace safety or because they have less regulation and can freely pollute or because they can bribe officials to grease the wheels of deals and avoid regulative enforcement . . . in these cases, these are only plutocratic, extractive comparative advantages, not democratic, sustainable ones.

The point about sustainability bears emphasis. Monoculture and other forms of specialization for the sake of comparative advantage are only beneficial when and if our over riding national aim is extractive and accumulative. If the aim is sustainability then each country is better off diversifying, and connecting locally, and regenerating and developing good relationships within its borders.

The theory of comparative advantage and the relentless pursuit of economic growth that is coupled with it is designed for an earlier age – a prior age when there was no need to worry about the carbon footprint of transport and the threats of climate change and the destruction of habitat around the world. Amongst the students at the college where I teach, there is enormous concern about climate change and its many implications. These young people are deeply concerned about our common future and the ways in which the issues of climate, now, in Naomi Klein’s memorable phrase, “Change Everything”. They are working here in Maine as well as in Bolivia, India and a host of other sites to develop local farming and alternatives to petrochemical based agriculture, alternatives to fossil fuels, alternative transportation systems, sustainable fisheries, resilient wildlife management, and school programs that provide action based service learning on these issues. And a large group of them has been taking part annually in the climate negotiations which have been dragging on since before they were born and which now, still, in Paris, are leaving us hanging, unsure of whether the negotiators will be able to reach any meaningful agreement. The nations of the world have already agreed that science tells us that meaningful treaty will have to find a way to lead us leave 80% of the carbon fuels we have already discovered unused. We will have to change our economies in a fundamental direction in order to leave those petrochemicals in the ground. Finding a way to do that is a central challenge of our time. And the TPP is designed to encourage long distance economic trade and development that would move us in precisely the opposite direction. For that reason alone it should be opposed.

But sustainability is about much more than just climate. It is about securing the diversity and integrity of our country’s economic system in ways that make it resilient in the face of change. On this score the doctrine of comparative advantage provides a myopic understanding of reality – it holds true only when we look at short run situations in which the basic social and ecological conditions for sustainability are already provided and can be presupposed. In todays turbulent world, are we better off specializing in making only whatever particular items we can make the most money with given the current international market conditions? Are we better off pursuing “comparative advantage” by giving up the ability to be self reliant in the production of food, fuel, and our other necessities – without which we can not survive let alone thrive? Just reframing the issue in these terms lets us hear the voices of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, Sojourner Truth and a crowd of other proud and self reliant forbearers calling out: Self Reliance! We can only hope to survive as ourselves and thrive as ourselves when we do for ourselves! We should not allow any treaty to strip us of our abilities to provide for ourselves come what may. And we should not allow it to leave us naked and powerless to govern ourselves with local, state, and federal policies that promote just such economic security and freedom from dependence on far away suppliers and unstable international markets.

The question is not whether we will sacrifice comparative advantage for special interests of workers or environmentalists. The question is whether we will sacrifice economic security and sustainability for special interests of corporations.

What of the second point — when advocates for the treaty argue that it will help prevent China from dominating the economies of the Pacific Rim and the world? We should reply that the issue is not which country will dominate some region of the world. The question is, which economic system will govern and dominate us. Will it be one of our own making? One we can remake as needed? To adapt to not only to new technologies but new cultural trends, changes in our population, and advances in our moral insight like those that came with Civil Rights in the 60’s, the Women’s movement in the 70’s and the Americans with Disabilities in the 80’s?

As Mainer’s we should not be worried about whether China is selling more objects of plastic, metal and food stuffs in Vietnam than we are. We should be worried about whether we can produce and consume here, in Maine, the kinds of things we think that we and our children should have. Can we make Maine be the way life should be or not? That is the question. What power do we have over our own lives and communities – regardless of who is the top dog, currently, in whatever international trade competition you might care to bet on and speculate about.

And what of the third point in which the advocates for the treaty tell us that it is a question of whether we want to pursue development as a free market, capitalist society or promote the government regulations and interventions of a socialist society? This simplistic contrast between Capitalism vs. Socialism is a false dichotomy. Every economy on this planet is a mixed economy with voluntary exchanges in markets of many different kinds AND with government playing a crucial role in framing the contexts of those markets – the rules of property, the public infrastructure that makes trade and economic growth possible and makes sure it promotes the public well being.

Every society is a mixed economy – a political economy. The question is, will it be controlled by a few or by the many. Our political economy in the United States is increasingly controlled by the few. It is the particular kind of oligarchy classified as a plutocracy – where the few who are most wealthy exercise the most way in how our political economy works. The TPP with outrageously centralized, undemocratic principles and processes for implementing them would push us even further in that very wrong direction.

I would here highlight a later section of the remarks of Rep. Treat refered to before. In the section on on the so called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures which provide a “A PRIVATE LEGAL SYSTEM JUST FOR CORPORATIONS” she notes:


“The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures in TPP are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments for lost profits caused by regulations in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Policies can be challenged under ISDS even if they apply to both foreign and domestic firms – in other words, even if they do not discriminate against trading partners. ISDS clauses in other trade agreements including NAFTA have been used repeatedly to attack environmental and public health measures. Even unsuccessful challenges take years to resolve, cost millions to defend, and have a chilling effect on the development of new legislation. The cost just for defending a challenged policy in an ISDS forum is $8 million on average; Phillip Morris’s ISDS challenge to Australia’s tobacco regulations has already racked up litigation costs of over $50 million for the Australian government, and the case is still in preliminary stages. • TPP would double the number of corporations that could use ISDS. More than 1,000 additional corporations in TPP nations, which own more than 9,200 subsidiaries in the U.S., could newly launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government. • The “reforms” to ISDS touted by the Obama Administration are largely cosmetic. ISDS tribunals would not meet standards of transparency, consistency or due process common to TPP countries’ domestic legal systems or provide fair, independent or balanced venues for resolving disputes. There is still no appeals mechanism; the arbitration panels would still be staffed by private sector lawyers paid by the hour and allowed to rotate between TPP ISSUES judging and advocating for investors; and problematic “minimum standard of treatment” and “indirect expropriation” language from past trade agreements is largely replicated. • The TPP investment chapter actually expands ISDS liability by widening the scope of domestic policies and government actions that could be challenged: Financial regulations for the first time could be subject to “minimum standard of treatment” claims under the investment chapter. Pharmaceutical firms could demand cash compensation under the investment chapter for claimed violations of World Trade Organization rules on creation, limitation or revocation of intellectual property rights.”


The people of Maine, like those of the rest of America, fought and died in war after war to secure freedom for themselves and others – the freedom to govern themselves, and not be governed by the interests of foreign sovereigns and corporations. The first nations of the Wabnaki who were here first – and our still here now – have cherished the lands and waters of this region and the ways of life they developed here as independent, sovereign communities – and the others who have joined them in living here join them as well in cherishing those same values and seeking to secure them for all who live in this Dawnland of the Americas. The peoples of Maine have worked day in and day out, hard, from one season to another , year after year, down through generations – straining their backs and freezing their butts and pushing themselves hard to make a life for themselves and their children – the way they think life should be – not the way some international rule or corporate lawyer or committee of three in an ISDS thinks it should be. The people of Maine have done their duty paying taxes and going to town meetings and serving on Warrant Committees and wrestling with referenda driving down to Augusta and arguing with friends and working out shared solutions with political opponents in order to fashion a system of governance for our communities and our political economy that suits us and expresses how we think life should be. And if my mother was still alive to have her say about this I am sure that she would say that she would be damned before she would let some TPP come along at tell us how our life should be.

In closing, I want to thank you again for making this hearing possible and for carrying on this tradition of open, public dialogue and democratic discussion and policy making that is so treasured by us in Maine. This is a tradition that is so treasured that we will come to gatherings at the end of long work days, sometimes driving great distances or through harsh weather to get to them, spend hours hearing each other out (even when it is sometimes painful to do so), and spends even more hours talking about it all afterwards and preparing for the next meetings. All of us, regardless of political party, treasure this tradition and the way of life that it has made possible. It makes us who we are. It defines us as people. I want to thank you all for representing it so well and for allowing us to carry it on in this gathering this evening in this open spacious place so full of light. Thank you!





Posted by: Gray | December 16, 2015

The Ways of Peace: A Philosophy of Peace as Action

Why does the concept of peace so often get defined in a logically negative way, in terms of what it is not – not war, violence, conflict . . . ?

And why can we say in English that nations are warring in the Middle East but cannot say that “Nations are peaceing in Scandanavia”?

This book provides a systematic account of how the meaning of peace has been obscured in our dominant culture — in something like the way that Heidegger argued that the meaning of Being has been obscured. And it provides a detailed account of how  practices of Quaker communal discernment, Harvard style “principled negotiation” and Gandhian satyagraha can provide paradigms for developing an alternative culture in which peace is understood in rich and practical terms as an activity we can perform to create an alternative world of peace.

Here is a link to download the book as a pdf: 00fullversionwaysofpeaceword

From the Preface:

“We can conceive of peace in many different ways, and these differences are related to a variety of assumptions and practices we can adopt in our culture. This book is about those differences.

Part I describes the ways in which we usually talk about peace. It argues that our conception is fundamentally obscure. We do not know what peace is and we do not know how to promote it. Part II develops an explanation of how peace has been obscured. It has been obscured by a network of beliefs and institutions in our culture. Part III critically evaluates some key parts of this cultural web and argues that there is an alternative cluster of assumptions and practices which we ought to adopt. It is a cluster which is intrinsically better—regardless of whatever it may imply about peace. Part IV argues that it happens to imply that we should think of peace as an activity—a practice we can cultivate at high levels of excellent performance.

This book is intended for a broad audience that includes parents, diplomats, social scientists, lawyers, labor/business mediators, social activists, philosophers, military officers, educators, theologians, and politicians. Its style is meant to provide good reading that is illustrated with meaningful examples. Its arguments aim to be intellectually compelling without being academic.”



Posted by: Gray | December 16, 2015

Reframing Ethical Theory for AI

A paper of mine just came out in the Journal of Evolution and Technology. It deals with: “Reframing Ethical Theory, Pedagogy, and Legislation to Bias Open Source AGI Towards Friendliness and Wisdom”.  You can download it at: — and perhaps figure out if it is of interest by reading the abstract here:


Hopes for biasing the odds towards the development of AGI that is human-friendly depend on finding and employing ethical theories and practices that can be incorporated successfully in the construction, programming and/or developmental growth, education and mature life world of future AGI. Mainstream ethical theories are ill-adapted for this purpose because of their mono-logical decision procedures which aim at “Golden rule” style principles and judgments which are objective in the sense of being universal and absolute. A much more helpful framework for ethics is provided by a dialogical approach using conflict resolution and negotiation methods, a “Rainbow rule” approach to diversity, and a notion of objectivity as emergent impartiality. This conflict resolution approach will also improve our chances in dealing with two other problems related to the “Friendly AI” problem, the difficulty of programming AI to be not merely smarter but genuinely wiser and the dilemmas that arise in considering whether AGIs will be Friendly to humans out of mere partisanship or out of genuine intent to promote the Good. While these issues are challenging, a strategy for pursuing and promoting research on them can be articulated and basic legislation and corporate policies can be adopted to encourage their development as part of the project of biasing the odds in favor of Friendly and Wise AGI.

Posted by: Gray | December 16, 2015

Sleep Baby, Sleep


Sleep Baby SleepIn anticipation of a new grandchild, I recorded an album of lullabies this last summer.

They are a mix of a cappella  and guitar accompanied songs — and include a lullaby version of “Breath on the Water”, an original version of the goodnight prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep” and a song for children who are crying. 

The album is available now through Bandcamp at: Baby Sleep artist1


I hope you have a chance to enjoy it with someone else 😉



In times of busyness and frustration it is important to remember that we never know when opportunity will come, Way will Open, possibilities will unfold . . . or a Bodhistattva will arise. Call it what we will, in whatever tradition from which we come, we are led time and again by experience to see that that which reaches from the Beyond is always available to reach us here, now, in this moment . . . widening our view and enlarging our preoccupied minds through a transforming Presence . . .

Here is a song I wrote that reflects this:

“You Never Know (when a Bodhisattva will arise)”
available as a Youtube video at:

Quiet in the meadow, stretched from earth to sky

Digging down for minerals, reaching up for light.

As pistils and stamens make their statements, expressed in hopes as seeds they fertilize,

You never know . . . when a bodhisattva will arise.


Busy, busy, busy, bustling from flower to flower

Harvesting the honey, communicating pollen.

While in the tree a cocooned caterpillar, wrapped in silk suspended lies.

You never know . . . when a bodhisattva will arise.


Busy, busy, busy, going from thing to thing.

Not centering in silence, not taking time to sing.

But then an unexpected interruption, a shock, a startle, a surprise.

You never know . . . when a bodhisattva will arise.


Encountering compassion

Come in an unexpected guise

Relaxing every muscle, opening into a smile.

Inexplicable elation, breathing out a sigh

You never know . . . when a bodhisattva will arise.


Words and lyrics by Gray Cox
2014 shared under a Creative Commons License 
recorded by Josh Tohn and Max Paris at the Maximum Tohn Studio,
College of the Atlantic, 2014
(In tuning of C, C, E, G, C, D)

This is a link to a Youtube video of a live performance at College of the Atlantic by a group of students of a song I wrote this fall:

It was great fun to sing with this gang whom we dubbed “Los Huracanes” — many of whom have been very active on Climate Change in the international negotiations as well as in a wide variety of  projects at the local, regional and global levels. The lyrics for this song are given here below.

“There’s A Change That’s A’Comin!”

Words and lyrics by Gray Cox

2014 shared under a Creative Commons License


PART 1: There’s a change that’s a comin (3x) . . . soon

And it’s comin’ like a hurricane

comin’ like a drought

And it’s comin’ like a glacier melting . . . (mouth clicks as water drops)


PART 2 : Cause we know it’s gonna be, gonna be at least 2 degrees (3x) . . . soon

And they say it may be much more            (3x) . . . than 2

But we all, we all, won’t let it

Cause we all, we all, finally get it

And we all, we all, are gonna make a change!!!!


PART 3: Like the nineteenth century end of slavery

— we’ll end fossil fuel dependency!

Like the fall of the Berlin Wall — we’’ll make a change!

Like an old time spiritual revival — Or a youtube video gone viral!

With a billion of us on bicycles — make a change!

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Cut by half our material consumption — Invest in real creative destruction!

Start a political eruption — make a change!

With piles of political donations – campaigning door to door in conversations,

We’ll take back the governments of our nations — make a change!


PART 4: Yes there’s a change that’s a comin (3x) . . . soon!

Cause we’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane! Soon!!

Yes! We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane! Soon!!




PART 2 : Cause we know it’s gonna be, gonna be at least 2 degrees (3x) . . . soon

And they say it may be much more            (3x) . . . than 2

But we all, we all, won’t let it

Cause we all, we all, finally get it

And we all, we all, are gonna make a change!!!!


PART 3: Like the nineteenth century end of slavery

— we’ll end fossil fuel dependency!

Like the fall of the Berlin Wall — we’’ll be the change we want to see!

Like an old time spiritual revival — Or a youtube video gone viral!

With a billion of us on bicycles — be the change we want to see!

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Cut by half our material consumption — Invest in real creative destruction!

Start a political eruption – make a change!

With piles of political donations – campaigning door to door in conversations,

We’ll take back the governments of our nations – and be the change we want to see!


PART 1: There’s a change that’s a comin (3x) . . . soon

And it’s comin’ like a hurricane

comin’ like a drought

And it’s comin’ like a glacier melting . . . (make mouth clicks for water drops)


PART 4: There’s a change that’s a comin (3x) . . . soon

Cause We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane! Soon!!

Yes! We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane!

We’re comin’, comin’ like a hurricane! Soon!! Two! Three! NOW!!!!!!!!!!!


To see samples of some of the hurricane activity of folks in this chorus check out:

The website for youth action on climate change at:

Angela Valenzuela and Augustin Martz at the Climate Change COP20 in Lima as they sing “Hombre de Papel” for the Youth and Future Generations Day and then are joined by others at a civil society action at the COP:

And the song “350 to Save the Sky” at:

Recently the artist Ashley Bryan’s lifetime of extraordinary work was celebrated with the opening of a center housing his art (see ). To commemorate this, a really engaging, informative, beautiful exhibit of his work documenting it and his life was installed at the Blum Gallery at College of the Atlantic Blum. In the Human Ecology Core Course at the College in which I am one of the team teachers this fall, Ashley came and talked about his  life and his work — and inspired us all in a host of ways. I have tried to capture some of the portion of that inspiration I received in the poem presented below — along with an audio version of it shared here — hoping it will encourage anyone not yet familiar with his incredibly life affirming art and children’s books to look them up as quick as they can 😉

”When Blackbird Came to Visit”

for Ashley Bryan

by Gray Cox


Blackbird came in.

He was full of color

Like a huge bowl full of  M&Ms

Brimming over beneath a rainspout

That was catching all the brilliant candies pouring down

— pouring down in a shower of unending bounty

from the Goddess of  Joy and Delight

who was splashing rainbows of  excitement over every  single one of  us!

Blackbird  said “Repeat after me!”

And then sang out loud as could be:

“My People are a Beautiful People!”

And suddenly we were all singing:

“My People are a Beautiful People!”

And  all the colors of all our feathers

were touched and trembling with  his inky black ,

And then we all sparkled like rainbows

Carved into a wooden block by a divinely inspired hand,

And that Blackbird, he was that hand,

Swirling in a dance as he lifted up his wings, circling into the sky,

To brush the tips of his wings around the edge of the Sun

And brush the tips of his wings around  the cotton of the Clouds

And brush the tips of his wings around the edge of the Moon

— and he brushed his feathered back

all over the Night that was  coming into the Sky

And it made the Stars sparkle twinkle beam

like the Eyes of Gods piercing through sea glass on a beach

that stretched out into the endless Ocean of the Night

— that Ocean of Night that was so full of color and so full of  light

Because it was as Black and Beautiful as the Universe at its very beginning

when It was just a Baby about to Burst into Life.

And we all wanted to be born like that!

And grow up to be children just like that!

— Be Children Bursting with Life like  Blackbird!!

And all we could think was: “Slap our Bottoms and Let’s Get Going!”

Posted by: Gray | September 14, 2014

A Song: 350 to Save the Sky

Looking to going to New York City this coming weekend for the big rally, I have been working on a song — and share it here with the words as well. The ideas in it relate, among other things, to those in earlier posts concerned with reducing consumption as well as dealing with climate change. Here is the song:

and here are the words and chords, which I hope folks will enjoy:


Words and lyrics by Gray Cox

2014 shared under a Creative Commons License


Now I was born with a great desire

To set my share of the world on fire.

To set my share of the world alight

And share in the flicker of the flame at night.

But with all the candles I did burn

At both ends, I did learn,

To share in the settin’ of the world alight

And share in the flicker of the flame at night.


CHORUS: So come ye now join in with me

We’ll clap our hands, we’ll stomp our feet,

We’ll lift our voices in a cry:

Three Fifty to Save the Sky!


Now some would like the world to turn

On the energy of the coal they burn

And let the climate change go on

Till most of Bangladesh is gone

From New Orleans to New York’s Coast

Up to Alaska’s permafrost

They’d rather sell their ancient oil

Than love our land and save our soil.



We’ll buy back our ancient rights

And stop consuming day and night,

invest more and consume less

And tell our worried children yes!

Yes we love you! Yes we care!

Yes we’ll give you your fair share!

Put half our income all aside

To stop the storms and turn the tide.



We’ll store up our energy

By digesting some calories

And when it gets all dark at night

We’ll wind a crank and make some light.

And if the weather does get cold

We’ll all put on a few more clothes

And for when we would move at great speed

We’ll harvest sunlight that we’ll need.



We prefer to all invest

In things that give the earth a rest

Cut our consumption right in half

And spend our time in greater laugh – Ter

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha



Still politicians all do seem

To be living in some false dream,

They’d rather go and pas the buck

Till someone else runs out of luck.

But we the people really care

And will not stop till they run scared.

We’ll make our leaders save the sky

And kick their asses till they cry:



Now I was born with a great desire

To set my share of the world on fire.

To set my share of the world alight

And share in the flicker of the flame at night.

But with all the candles I did burn

At both ends, I did learn,

To share in the settin’ of the world alight

And share in the flicker of the flame at night.



For love and laughter you and I!

Three fifty to save the sky!

Love our children, do or die!

Three fifty to save the sky!

Three fifty to save the sky!

Three fifty to save the sky!

Three fifty to save the sky!

D/ D G/D / A / D/ D G / D/ A D

G/ G/ D / A/ D/ D G/ D/ A D

G/ G/ D/ A/ D/ D G/ D/ A D



Posted by: Gray | September 14, 2014

Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Research

This summer I and a team of others from the Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF) published a new short book on Quaker approaches to research that draw on Friends’  traditions of communal discernment to enrich and frame investigations — including variations of spirit-led work that involves “meeting for worship for the conduct of research”.  This work is available through mainstream online book sellers as well as through the QIF  website at


The aim of this pamphlet is to describe 1) the vision, theory, and traditions of practice inspiring a Quaker approach to research; 2) experiments with specific methods used; 3) initial results and findings; and 4) the key challenges and puzzles that remain. It further aims to explore the relevance of Quaker process when the participants are not Quaker or even religious.

Chapter I begins with a description of the vision, theory, and tradition of practices that emerged among early Quakers in the 1600s and that have been refined and extended in a variety of decision-making contexts over the last 350 years. Chapter II provides a more detailed account of the procedures and practices with which QIF has experimented in its first ten years.

Chapter III compares other traditions with these Quaker practices of communal discernment in research, policy analysis and collective decision making. There is much to be learned through dialogue with other faith-based traditions. Further, it is useful to consider how Quaker practices may be usefully modified and adapted in secular settings.

Chapter IV explores some of the philosophical issues and challenges that are raised by the very idea of having a “Quaker Epistemology” or way of knowing and the distinctive assumptions made about the process of research, the norms and criteria for knowledge, and the nature of reality. Especially challenging are the historic splits that have been framed between church and state, and between faith and reason. This chapter does not provide final resolution to the important methodological and metaphysical issues raised but try to frame them in reasonable and useful ways to facilitate ongoing dialogue amongst Quakers and others, even ardent atheists.

Chapter V closes with some reflections on the future of collaborative and communal research.

I never quite know what I may find in unusual places — including  watching TV 😉

After recently watching the Albert Schweitzer episode in THE ADVENTURES OF THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES, I was led to think about  Schweitzer’s core principle of ethics — in ways that give echo to my own sense of what is expressed in a song of mine called “We All Come From Africa”. To listen to that song, click here: 

What is “reverence for life” or what Schweitzer called “Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben”?

In English, “reverence” suggests church, it suggests being quiet, it suggest being very attentive to someone speaking from a pulpit or something being viewed in a museum or altar or judges bench by one of us congregated in the mass of the of common and mundane folk who get to view or hear the object of our reverence. And it suggests something framed not only by an altar or pulpit or exhibition proscenium but framed as well by one or more ideas – by intellectual and abstract principles or notions that we might capitalize like Beauty, Truth, Justice, God . . .

For a long time I thought of Schweitzer’s principle in this way. I admired it as a testament from someone who seemd to be an especially good man who had done heroic things with his life – risking his all (family, wealth, reputation, life . . .) to deliver desperately needed medicine to strangers in a strange and dangerous and distant land. But it seemed so abstract. And impossibly filled with contradiction – if I revere the life in the deer, how do I treat the wolf? Or the plants the deer eats?

And this came in part from the way I imagined Schweitzer coming upon the phrase and principle. He himself was a very gifted and well read intellectual and he himself spoke of a very intellectual process not that unfamiliar to me as someone who has worked multiple years on academic writings. In his autobiography “Out of My Life and Thought” he explains this process. Having described how at the beginning of the summer of 1915 he awoke from some kind of mental daze, asking himself why he was only criticizing civilization and not working on something constructive, he asked himself the question:

But what is civilization?

The essential element in civilization is the ethical perfecting of the individual as well as society. At the same time, every spiritual and every material step forward has significance for civilization. The will to civilization is, then, the universal will to progress that is conscious of the ethical as the highest value. In spite of the great importance we attach to the achievements of science and human prowess, it is obvious that only a humanity that is striving for ethical ends can benefit in full measure from material progress and can overcome the dangers that accompany it . . . The only possible way out of chaos is for us to adopt a concept of the world based on the ideal of true civilization . . . . For months on end I lived in a continual state of mental agitation. Without the least success I concentrated – even during my daily work at the hospital, – on the real nature of the affirmation of life and of ethics and on the question of what they have in common. I was wandering about in a thicket where no path was to be found. I was pushing against an iron door that would not yield.

But recently I entered into Schweitzer’s experience and thought in a different way.

I imagined him not as the German Philosopher but as the medical missionary, working out of a hut in Africa surrounded by teeming jungle and on the edge of a great flowing river. I invite you to see him this way. He is a doctor who has been saving lives, tending bones and flesh, watching it heal of itself in miraculous ways, traveling in a vast wilderland with teeming trees bushes and birds and animals, traveling along the river . . and the motor cuts out . . . the boat sits quite in the flow of the river . . . and suddenly he stops listening to his own furious intellect and openly attends to the life around him . . . he can hear the silence of it and then, the Presence of all that life around – in the water where fish are swimming with crocs and hippos, at the bank where herons wade and grasses grow, in the trees where monkeys call and the bushes where birds flit about (not like ideas read in a poem by T. S. Eliot but like real birds in the bush over here, now) and he sees the child sitting on its mother’s lap on the boat – the child whose birth he witnessed as an incredibly complex process of brains and hips and bones and muscles and lungs and contractions and shouts and spreading of one set of legs to make room for another’s and community cooperation in choosing partners and cultivating care. . .

And he sits there, in awe, as a medical person, who can appreciate how unthinkably complex this whole jungle and river of life is . . . and that it includes him – he is a vital part of it all . . .

And the phrase “Ehrfrucht vor dem Leben” comes to mind to give that sense expression.

How to express that sense in English?

It is not like the tame reverence of a docile congregant attending an object behind a frame or proscenium.

It is the awe of someone being splashed by a Niagara Falls.

It is not the reverence of a person sitting meditating on an abstract Principle or Idea.

It is the rushing sense of enthusiasm and glory of you as an adolescent running out from school on a flush spring day with sunlight zinging through all the plants and birds chirping busily to nest and bees buzzing noisily in their honey-sweet acts of pollination and then your own jumpy urge to prance and find some sweet other to dance about with in the grass . . .

Perhaps we could agree with Wikpedia suggestion that: The phrase Reverence for Life is a translation of the German phrase: “Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben” (more accurately translated as: “to be in awe of the mystery of life”). [NOTE: this misses the import of “vor” which can mean because of or from – so it is something like awe or wonder from or at or because of life”]

A better writer could surely express it with even much greater power than that phrase does or than my writing here has managed . But I think that the key is not to find a piece of writing somewhere in this text or some other that describes the feeling. The key is to have it. To go forth and feel the life pulsing in your veins and that of the others – every person, plant, beast and organism on this wondrous planet.

And when you feel that . . . then it will be time to consider how best to deal with haovc of Global Warming or grinding away at life with asphalt and cement and inorganic chemicals or the possibilities of future Silent Springs.

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