“Just as every drop of the ocean carries the taste of the ocean, so does every moment carry the taste of eternity.” ~Nisargadatta
“There’s nothing mysterious about it. Everybody sees the world through the ideas they have of themselves. As you think yourself to be, so you think the world to be. If you imagine yourself as separate from the world, the world will appear as separate from you. And you will experience desire and fear…
What is beautiful? Whatever is percieved joyfully is beautiful. Bliss is the essence of beauty.
We are slaves of what we don’t know. Of what we know we are masters. Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover (and understand its cause and workings) we can overcome it by the very knowing.
The primary purpose of meditation is to become more conscious and familiar with our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the Source of Life.
If you are angry or in pain, separate your self from anger and pain, and watch them. Externalization is the first step to liberation. Whatever state I am in, I see it as a state of mind to be accepted, as it is.
There is no “my self” and “your self.” There is the Self. The only Self of All. Misled by the diversity of names and shapes, minds and bodies, you imagine multiple selves. There is no second or higher “self” to search for. You are the higher Self.
Only give up the false ideas you have about your self. Get hold of the main thing – that the world and the Self are One, and perfect. Only your attitude is faulty and needs readjustment.
Just as every drop of the ocean carries the taste of the ocean, so does every moment carry the taste of eternity.”
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels…” ~Albert Einstein, N.Y. Times, 1946
Over the course of the last hundred years, Western scientists have given us a deeper view of the Universe, of Life & Nature as a creative and unified self-organizing process.Unfortunately, most modern societies are still operating with outdated ideas and assumptions, that do not reflect this new paradigm.
Albert Einstein understood this, as have many others. In order to survive as a species, it is essential that we shift paradigms, developing ways of thinking (and behaving) that are more aligned with how human life and Nature’s systems actually work.
Every “thing” that exists in our Universe is a dynamic complex system, interdependently connected to other systems, constantly moving and changing, less a static “thing” than an evolving and transforming creative process.
We see galaxies and hurricanes spinning, continents moving…
“Life is sacred, life is art. Be mindful. See the beauty that exists everywhere, the creative mystery that we are. Be aware of your presence and connection to everything. Know that behind your social persona and cultural identity you are the child of a Creative Cosmos.”
Here below are high quality reproductions of some of the drawings that I have produced over the last 40 years, as well as some background on the meaning and inspiration behind each work. Please feel free to download, print out and/or share with others, no payment required. The originals were mostly about 10 x 14 inches (26 X 35 cm) in size. My only request is that you do not sell them or publish without contacting me first.
“Principles for the development of a complete mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” ―Leonardo da Vinci
The view I try to share with my drawings is that we are all works of universal cosmic art. From science we now know that everything within and around us is made of atoms that are billions of years old (which is what the dots represent in my drawings). Many other recurring shapes and patterns (such as spheres and spirals) can be seen, if we observe Nature carefully.
In the 1980s, while living in Japan, I began to experience my life more deeply and tried to express this vision (of the unity, interconnectedness, beauty and sacredness of everything) in my drawings. These works were strongly influenced by Taoism, Zen, meditation and experiences of mindfulness. Since the 1990s the focus of my drawings shifted to education and systems thinking, but the deeper “truth” or meaning being expressed is the same, that everything is connected and we live in a creative Universe that is itself a work of cosmic art.
This is where the artist’s vision can blend with science, highlighting the deep sacred mystery found in the shapes, patterns and cycles of our Universe. Nature is more like a flowing living symphony than a material “thing.” And everything is connected, everything is energy. Van Gogh expressed this beautifully with his art, William Blake with poetry, and Einstein with science, so there is nothing really “new” that I am trying to communicate.
Mystical traditions and individuals have been expressing this understanding for centuries. Life is sacred, life is art. Be mindful. See the beauty that exists everywhere, the creative mystery that we are. Be aware of your presence and connection to everything. Know that behind your social persona and cultural identity you are the child of a Creative Cosmos.
My feeling is that humans often overcomplicate things. Truth and wisdom are simple, I think. Peace and love arise naturally when we connect with the Universe around us and Source wisdom within us. Trust the Universe, align with the creative laws of Nature and the deep love within you.
Be happy. Be joyful and creative. Be loving. Keep growing.
The illustrations above and below were both done in the winter of 1993, at the age of 21, during my first year as an exchange student in Japan. I had just learned to meditate, and the sense of calm and quiet of meditation (as well as the experience of living in Japan) profoundly influenced these drawings. I had been drawing since age 3, but had never done anything like these works before. It felt like the creative action was coming from a different consciousness, not the personal me but a deeper universal awareness.
The drawing below was actually done first. I felt the sphere represented the unity and wholeness of our Earth when we step back, while the lines represent the complexity we experience when we come in close. I also felt the drawing was similar to a mother’s womb or egg, representing the hidden creativeness of life within life. The image above has similar meaning, although the plant leaves definitely represent the mysterious beauty of growth.
The next drawing was done about 3 years later, when I returned to Japan to teach on the island of Amakusa, in Kumamoto. This was done in the summer of 1985, I think. I wanted to show how the curtain, walls and tatami floor were part of the Universe, made of atoms (which are made of energy) and always moving. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of rooms and starry skies definitely were the inspiration for this, as well as Japanese rock gardens I had visited.
The next drawing was done in the winter of 1986, when I lived in Amakusa, Japan. I had bought the smiling statue of Hotei while visiting a friend in Hong Kong. This is one of my favorite drawings, as the whole work kind of created itself, I felt almost like an observer. I had no pre-set image in my mind. First I drew the statue. Looking at this, it seemed a sphere next to him would be great, like he’s resting on a stone. Then I started to draw the lines, and suddenly at some point my hand just shot up creating the water like structure. I had not thought of that, it just happened.
Then I went back and drew more lines under him, and the idea arose to put in a door. Once the door was there, I drew the stone like shapes, aware these were like a wall, a very human design in contrast to the organic shapes. I see these shapes as also representing the human tendency to compartmentalize. I drew for about 7 hours that first day, finishing everything except for the background. I then spent the next two or three weeks slowly doing the dots and shapes, just listening to music, allowing my hand and eyes to dance together on the paper.
The initial design for this Easter Island drawing below was actually started many years earlier, probably around 1981, before I went to Japan. I had not done the sky or made the heads dark, originally. After returning from Japan in 1986, I looked at the old drawing and immediately sensed how to finish it.
I think this below was also made in 1987, when I was back in New York. I was sitting on my parents’ back porch with a cup of tea in my hands, just staring at the tea cup and realized this would make a beautiful drawing. I call this empty cup principle, in reference to Lao Tsu’s verses (in the Tao Te Ching) about how its the emptiness of a cup or room that makes it useful. The cup I drew was not empty though, so I wanted to represent how the tea had depth, was a part of the cosmos, how the Universe is there in the tea cup. Not symbolically but REALLY (if we think deeply about it). When we drink water, tea or anything, we are drinking the universe in that form. Everything (and everyone) is the Universe, in some form.
This below was drawn after my wife Hiroko and I had moved to California. It was influenced by the waves of Japanese ukiyoe paintings, and a similar drawing an art teacher that I had met in Japan had drawn and showed me, although his drawing was a moon above waves. He also drew with black ink, and gave me some excellent advise, saying to take my time and balance the light areas of drawings with much darker areas.
This below is a drawing of a plant we had in our home in Hayward, California. I drew the plant first, and then let my imagination just dance and have fun with the rest of the work. As mentioned, I would usually listen to music while drawing, and so I tried to represent that also. Like the plant was singing or the atoms around it were singing and dancing, everything moving. Again, influenced by Van Gogh, I wanted to express the deep moving nature of the cosmos.
After 1988, I did not draw many large illustrations such as these anymore. I became a doctoral student at Stanford University, studying education, psychology and child development. The next drawing was made when I worked as a research assistant at a school we were helping, where I assisted a 7th grade science teacher. Her students had studied all the parts of human and plant biology, learned the names of all the parts of cells and ecosystems, but nowhere in their textbooks was a description or explanation on how all these “parts” fit together as a unified whole.
I came in one day and drew this on the blackboard. It’s the first “systems illustration” that I made, showing how our bodies and cells are connected to the plant world and solar system. The students were fascinated by this, they had not realized that we are solar powered, or that their biological systems functioned as a transport system connecting them to Nature and the Universe, so that water, energy, oxygen and other molecules could regenerate our individual lives. This is what the Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes as awareness of inter-being, using our imaginations to become more conscious of the deep unity and interdependence of everything.
This below was done in 1995, after I had graduated from Stanford and we moved back to Japan. I drew this after a Rolling Stones concert, here in Fukuoka, although the idea originally arose while attending Grateful Dead concerts in California. I wanted to show how everything is connected in both space and time. We are connected back billions of years, to the deep history of our ancestors, cultures and the evolution of both Nature and the Universe. We are also connected spatially, to our communities, nations, civilization, ecosystems and the solar system. As Leonardo da Vinci had said, “Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
The drawing Systems Science (above) was done for my students here in Japan. Everything that exists structurally is a system, embedded in and connected to other systems. I wanted to express the same idea recently and drew this (below). We are all creative expressions of the Universe, it is within us and all around us. My feeling is that by seeing life in this way we can gain a sense of the beauty and mystery of everything, the miracle of our presence here.
So, those are some of my “better” works. Please download and print out (or share) any of these images that you like. If you share on Facebook or SNS and can provide a link to this blog, that would be great, but not necessary.
I have never sold any of my hand drawn illustrations, I still have most of the originals. For me, the “value” of art has nothing to do with money. The value of this work has been found in the creative process and the sharing.
For viewers, the “value” hopefully comes by spending time with the drawings, allowing your consciousness to connect with the images and what they represent. This is true for all artwork, in my opinion. These are to be reflected upon, shared and experienced, not collected as some kind of “investment.”
Just quiet your mind, allow your consciousness and imagination to flow into the work directly, like you would with good music, see and feel whatever arises from that. Think about what the art is saying about the deepness of you and your life, the sacred mystery of everything that surrounds us. Know also that you can connect deeply in this way with anything, any work of art, a flower or friend, the moon, a meal, a landscape or tree.
For anyone interested in diving more deeply into ideas related to systems thinking and the role of imagination and the arts in helping people gain a deeper understanding of the unity and wholeness of the sciences, this below is a presentation that I made on the topic, in the summer of 2021.
But spiritual connection can happen outwardly too, with Nature, family, work, community, art, music, food, everything can be seen and connected with in a more “spiritual” way, even science and society. This is something Taoism and Zen express well. Cause if everything is ONE, everything is made of atoms and energy, then there is nothing that is not a creative expression of the Universe.
“My culture did not prize the hoarding of private possessions, in fact, to hoard was a shameful thing to do among my people. The Indian looked on all things in Nature as belonging to [us] and he expected to share them with others and to take only what he needed.” ~Chief Dan George
“In the course of my lifetime I have lived in two distinct cultures. I was born into a culture that lived in communal houses. My grandfather’s house was eighty feet long. It was called a smoke house, and it stood down by the beach along the inlet. All my grandfather’s sons and their families lived in this dwelling. Their sleeping apartments were separated by blankets made of bull rush weeds, but one open fire in the middle served the cooking needs of all.
In houses like these, throughout the tribe, people learned to live with one another; learned to respect the rights of one another. And children shared the thoughts of the adult world and found themselves surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins who loved them and did not threaten them.
My father was born in such a house and learned from infancy how to love people and be at home with them. And beyond this acceptance of one another there was a deep respect for everything in Nature that surrounded them. My father loved the Earth and all its creatures. The Earth was his second mother.
The Earth and everything it contained was a gift from See-see-am… and the way to thank this Great Spirit was to use his gifts with respect. I remember, as a little boy, fishing with him up Indian River and I can still see him as the sun rose above the mountain top in the early morning…
I can see him standing by the water’s edge with his arms raised above his head while he softly moaned…”Thank you, thank you.” It left a deep impression on my young mind. And I shall never forget his disappointment when once he caught me gaffing for fish “just for the fun of it.”
“My son” he said, “The Great Spirit gave you those fish to be your brothers, to feed you when you are hungry. You must respect them. You must not kill them just for the fun of it.” This then was the culture I was born into and for some years the only one I really knew or tasted.
This is why I find it hard to accept many of the things I see around me. I see people living in smoke houses hundreds of times bigger than the one I knew. But the people in one apartment do not even know the people in the next and care less about them. It is also difficult for me to understand the deep hate that exists among people.
It is hard to understand a culture that justifies the killing of millions in past wars, and it at this very moment preparing bombs to kill even greater numbers. It is hard for me to understand a culture that spends more on wars and weapons to kill, than it does on education and welfare to help and develop.
It is hard for me to understand a culture that not only hates and fights his brothers but even attacks Nature and abuses her. I see my white brothers going about blotting out Nature from his cities. I see him strip the hills bare, leaving ugly wounds on the face of mountains. I see him tearing things from the bosom of Mother Earth as though she were a monster, who refused to share her treasures with him. I see him throw poison in the waters, indifferent to the life he kills there; as he chokes the air with deadly fumes.
My white brother does many things well for he is more clever than my people but I wonder if he has ever really learned to love at all. Perhaps he only loves the things that are his own but never learned to love the things that are outside and beyond him. And this is, of course, not love at all, for man must love all creation or he will love none of it. Man must love fully or he will become the lowest of the animals. It is the power to love that makes him the greatest of them all… for he alone of all animals is capable of [a deeper] love.
My friends, how desperately do we need to be loved and to love. When Christ said man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of a hunger. This hunger was not the hunger of the body.. He spoke of a hunger that begins in the very depths of man… a hunger for love.
Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world. Instead we turn inwardly and begin to feed upon our own personalities and little by little we destroy ourselves.
You and I need the strength and joy that comes from knowing that we are loved. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.
There have been times when we all wanted so desperately to feel a reassuring hand upon us… there have been lonely times when we so wanted a strong arm around us… I cannot tell you how deeply I miss my wife’s presence when I return from a trip. Her love was my greatest joy, my strength, my greatest blessing.
I am afraid my culture has little to offer yours. But my culture did prize friendship and companionship. It did not look on privacy as a thing to be clung to, for privacy builds walls and walls promote distrust. My culture lived in big family communities, and from infancy people learned to live with others.
My culture did not prize the hoarding of private possessions, in fact, to hoard was a shameful thing to do among my people. The Indian looked on all things in Nature as belonging to him and he expected to share them with others and to take only what he needed. Everyone likes to give as well as receive. No one wishes only to receive all the time.
We have taken something from your culture… I wish you had taken something from our culture, for there were some beautiful and good things in it. Soon it will be too late to know my culture, for integration is upon us and soon we will have no values but yours.
Already many of our young people have forgotten the old ways. And many have been shamed of their Indian ways by scorn and ridicule. My culture is like a wounded deer that has crawled away into the forest to bleed and die alone.
The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love. You must truly love, be patient with us and share with us. And we must love you—with a genuine love that forgives and forgets… a love that forgives the terrible sufferings your culture brought ours when it swept over us like a wave crashing along a beach… with a love that forgets and lifts up its head and sees in your eyes an answering love of trust and acceptance…”
~Chief Dan George was a leader of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation as well as a beloved actor, musician, poet and author. He was born in North Vancouver in 1899 and died in 1981.
“It’s the Hopi belief, that, if you’re not spiritually connected to the earth, and understand the spiritual reality of how to live on earth, it’s likely you will not make it. You should treat all things as Spirit – realize that we are ONE Family.” – Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman
“Time evolves and comes to a place where it renews again. There is first a purification time, and then there is renewal time. We are getting very close to this time now. We were told that we would see America come and go. In a sense, America is dying, from within… because they forgot the instructions on how to live on earth.
Everything is coming to a time where prophecy and man’s inability to live on earth in a spiritual way, will come to a crossroad of great problems. It’s the Hopi belief, it’s our belief, that, if you’re not spiritually connected to the earth, and understand the spiritual reality of how to live on earth, it’s likely you will not make it.
When Columbus came, that began, what we term as, the “First World War.” That was the true First World War – when Columbus arrived – because along with him came everybody from Europe.
By the end of the Second World War, we were, in America, we were only 800,000. From 60 million to 800,000. So, we were almost exterminated here in America.
Everything is spiritual. Everything has a spirit. Everything… everything was brought here by the Creator – the one Creator. Some people call Him “God,” some people call Him “Buddha,” some people call Him “Allah,” some people call Him other names. We call Him “Concachilla”… “Grandfather.”
We’re here on earth… only a few winters. Then, we go to the Spirit World. The Spirit World is more real than most of us believe. The Spirit World is everything.
Over 95% of our body is water. And, in order to stay healthy, you’ve got to drink good water. When the European first came here, Columbus, we could drink out of any river. If the Europeans had lived the Indian way when they came, we would still be drinking out of rivers, because Water is sacred. The Air is sacred.
Our DNA is made of the same DNA as the tree. The tree breathes what we exhale. When the tree exhales, we need what the tree exhales. So, we have a common destiny with the tree. We are all from the earth. And when earth, water and the atmosphere is corrupted, then it will create its own reaction. Our Mother is reacting.
In the Hopi prophecy they say the storms and floods will become greater. To me, it’s not a negative thing to know that there will be great changes. It’s not negative, it’s evolution. When you look at it as evolution, it’s time. Nothing stays the same.
You should treat all things as Spirit – realize that we are ONE Family. It’s never something like “the End.” It’s like Life – there is no end to Life.”
“The world is not just about business and the economy. You should have room to develop love… You don’t have to live in a hurry. You don’t have to rush. Please enjoy the joy of life little-by-little every day. Don’t drown in greed… Turn that passion into love. For friends, children and loved ones. Because life without love is meaningless.” -Jose Mujica
This is a speech by José Mujica, given during a Japanese high school entrance ceremony, on April 5, 2017. An English translation is shared below. His excellent HUMAN Interview (with English subtitles) can be found here. The 40th former president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica was known as the “poorest president in the world.” During his presidency, he did not live in the luxurious presidential palace, but donated most of his salary to live on a suburban farm.
“Young people, let me thank you from the far south corner on the other side of the globe. It was a great experience to visit Japan and get a glimpse of its history.
You are now at the beginning of your life. Remember, humans are social animals that live in groups. We can’t live alone. That is why humans have built civilizations. Civilization is the greatest legacy left by our predecessors.
Education gives us hints. It is a hint to receive the civilization built by the ancestors and the seeds that have been sown. Now it’s our turn to mature through education and leave some seeds behind. For the future of the earth and future generations..
Life is accompanied by a fight against one’s ego. You need an ego to protect yourself and your loved ones, but don’t forget, that humans need society and cannot live without others. And remember… that the miracle of living is the greatest happiness. Life must be cherished and protected.
Live as hard as you can every day. The beauty of life does not fade even with pain and trials. Living is the accumulation of falling, standing up, and moving forward. Living is also a struggle for freedom. It’s not as explosive as the French Revolution, we need a more instinctive and modest freedom. In other words, you are free to spend a certain amount of time in your life, as you like.
The world is not just about business and the economy. You should have room to develop love. For loved ones and friends. You don’t have to live in a hurry. You don’t have to rush. Please enjoy the joy of life little-by-little every day. Don’t drown in greed. People are born naked and die naked. Turn that passion into love. For friends, children and loved ones. Because life without love is meaningless.
On the other hand, we are under pressure from the market. The market drives us to buy things one after another. And takes away our time. You don’t pay for money. It’s the precious time in your life that is spent to make that money.
So be sensible and modest and don’t think only about money. That way you won’t lose your free time in life. This idea is also found in some ancient Greek maxims, from around the 6th century BC. “Nothing in excess” (don’t ask for too much).
History gives us many hints. There must be lessons to look back on in Japanese history. This is because your country, which has been around since ancient times, has a lot of wisdom and unique history. The trouble is that human beings have difficulty learning even if they are told directly. Wisdom is something that you must actually experience to finally learn.
Japan is a very modern and technologically advanced country. But robots don’t have the emotions of humans. That is why you should spend your school life and your time meaningfully. The important thing is to learn how to learn. As we get older, we learn a lot.
Every day I realize it. No matter how much I learn, I have more to learn. There is a limit to what you can learn in your lifetime. Unfortunately, human life is limited, but love is unlimited. Therefore, I want to spread this to the world.
Human abilities aren’t just about building huge buildings, going to the moon, diving into the bottom of the deep ocean, and manipulating genes. The world can be changed if we are more deeply aware of it and help each other.
No matter how difficult it may be, we can build a better world, a world without hatred and war. To do so, remove severe poverty from the world. And stop wasting things. These problems are the result of repeated wasteful spending without knowing what humans really need to be doing.
In the world, as much as $ 2 million per minute is spent on military spending. Yet, Africa’s hunger is neglected, saying it has no money. It is a shameful behavior, such as abandoning Africa, the birthplace of humankind. So, everyone, please study hard and use that knowledge for humankind. Not just for yourself, but for everyone.
“The most interesting and important thing I learned from this class is “system thinking.” Through this way of thinking, I learned that everything, for example humans, nature and society, is connected. These days, human beings tend to ignore the surrounding nature and environment. We first should realize that we humans are a part of nature.” ~ Japanese University student
The following is a replica of the second of three units of an Integrated English course presented online via Moodle forums and Zoom meetings, for first year students at Kyushu University during the second semester of 2020, in Fukuoka, Japan. There is a lot of information here, which the students had about one month to research, discuss together and then write about individually. I am sharing this curriculum publicly, as many students felt this was the most interesting and important material that they studied during the semester. ~Christopher Chase, 2021
Part One – The Challenge of Building a Unified Systems Science
In the 21st century, the human species faces both great crisis and opportunity. The problems of climate change and environmental destruction have been getting worse decade-by-decade. War and poverty still destroy millions of people’s lives. The corona virus is a much smaller crisis, but is unique in history. In 2020, all human beings have been challenged to think creatively and take action locally together to solve a global problem we all face. The crisis is providing us with a unique “educational” opportunity, I believe, to understand the importance of creativity, teamwork, human intelligence, systems science and systems thinking. So these are the ideas that I will introduce here, as the final class topic.
First, let me introduce the main “systems” topics, then I will present several key ideas in detail. Systems science is an attempt by scientists and educators to connect all the fields of science together into one unified model. Systems theories are ideas about how nature works, general principles that apply to all sciences. Systems thinking (システムズシンキング) is when we understand how various systems in the universe are connected and work together as unified wholes. “システムシンキングでは、全体のシステムを構成する要素間のつながりと相互作用に注目し、その上で、全体の振る舞いに洞察を与える.”
While systems science and theory have been known for decades it is not commonly taught yet in most schools. Here is a drawing I made in 2003, while teaching at Seinan and Kyushu University, to represent various complex systems in our universe. Usually in school you are taught about each of these systems separately. Also, scientists study each field separately, but in reality all the systems in Nature and the Universe are connected together and influence each other. Einstein understood this and encouraged all of us to use our imaginations to connect knowledge together. Systems science is focused on creating a unified model of all systems, so that human beings can understand how everything is interconnected and how various systems effect each other.
Part Two – Systems Thinking & Visual Intelligence (Imagination)
Below is another drawing I made. I drew this in 1993, while working as a research assistant, helping a junior high science teacher instruct her classes in California. The students were about 12 years old, studying plant and human biology and earth science. They were learning the names of all the parts of cells, biology systems, plants and ecosystems but there were no illustrations in their text books that showed how all these structures were connected together and serve as a transport system for solar energy from the sun.
When I showed this picture to the class they were amazed. They did not realize how we are solar powered, or how all these systems they had studied are connected together. They had studied the names of the different parts and systems for tests, but didn’t have a full understanding of the interconnections. This is systems thinking, using our imaginations (visual intelligence) to understand how all systems in Nature and our Universe are connected and interact together as unified wholes.
Please watch this video of MIT professor Peter Senge. He explains why systems science and thinking is so important, especially in the 21st century. I highly recommend watching his videos and reading his books when you have time in the future.
I have been interested in systems science since I was your age and studied art in college. Many systems theorists and researchers around the world approach the topic with a focus on mathematics and computer modeling. If you like mathematics this can be interesting, but my focus is more on creativity and education, helping people understand complex natural systems with their imaginations (visual intelligence).
Computers and mathematics are very helpful for systems research and modeling, but I believe imagination and creativity are most helpful for systems education and learning. If we want to help billions of people on our planet to become creative systems thinkers and effective problem solvers, I believe that Einstein was right, the human imagination is our greatest tool. When you have a unified understanding of systems relationships in your head its like having a personal GPS system that guides your decisions about what to do in situations.
I believe that visual intelligence is the primary knowledge representation system of most animals and insects and may be the primary system used for future A.I. that are built. All animals that have eyes or other spatial intelligences (like bat radar, dolphin sonar) are able to use their imagination to construct complex visual maps of their surrounding environments. These multi-dimensional maps then function like an intelligent GPS system that guides them. In truth, we are all a part of Nature, one community of life that has evolved on this planet together. By using your imagination effectively (and wisely) it becomes easier to think like Nature.
My own interest started with art, nature and creativity, not science. Below, is a drawing I did in 1986, while living in Amakusa, Japan (more artwork here). Since my childhood I have wanted to be an artist or illustrator. I was taught that creative talent is rare, that most people are not very creative. However, over time I began to believe that everyone has the potential to be an artist, and that most important for human society is to help people understand the power of our imagination for representing reality effectively and accurately. It’s not just a human power, it’s something many of Nature’s living creations share.
As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Part Three – What is Systems Theory?
Systems Theory is concerned with ideas that describe common characteristics of complex systems in Nature and the Universe. The idea of interdependence (相互依存) is the understanding that all systems are composed of many parts that are connected together. For example, there are many systems in your body (digestive, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, immune, etc.) that work together interdependently, as a unified whole. The same is true of a basketball team, an ecosystem, a computer, a business or rock band (like the Beatles). There are many kinds of Creative Systems in our Universe that are connected together, interdependently, and make new things.
Every system that you touch and see has a connection with both the past and present. Your body, for example, has an evolutionary heritage, that goes back billions of years, with the history of life on our planet. There is also a cultural history to all the buildings and technologies you use, the fashion you wear and language you speak. Everything has a unique history that stretches back through time.
You also are also connected to the history of the Universe. Most of the atoms in your body are billions of years old, many created in stars which existed before our solar system was born. Moreover, the energy that spins as those atoms has a history going back further to the Big Bang, when our Universe began. While your body is new and young, your atoms are ancient, very very very very very very very very very very very very very old.
Your relationships with systems go back through time to the past, and outward in the present, connecting you with the whole planet. The air you breathe, water you drink and the food you eat come to you from the trees, the clouds, rain and plants in our world. Life on our planet is a complex web of transactions, exchanges and relationships.
This is the wisdom indigenous peoples have, and is why the ecological problems we face now are so dangerous. People who lived in Nature observed and connected directly with ecological systems every day, understanding that if one part of the world dies, everything may begin to die. As Severn Suzuki & Michael Jackson expressed, we need this kind of indigenous wisdom and ecological consciousness for all humanity, now.
When various parts of a system work together as a whole we call this principle synergy (相乗効果). So complexity, interdependence, creativity and synergy are all examples of natural systems principles. Another important system principle is the concept of self-organization. Your body, our solar system, a galaxy, hurricane and forest are all self-organizing.
Actually, most systems in Nature and the Universe are both self-organizing and self-constructing. Nature’s systems organize and build themselves. That makes these systems very different from tools and machines built by humans, which do not create themselves.
The study of Nature’s mathematics is very old. The golden ratio and fibonacci sequence (フィボナッチ数) are examples of organic mathematics. Human science, architecture and technology has focused more on math that helps us create buildings and machines, but does not explain the living structures that Nature has created and that regenerate (自然治癒力) themselves.
New fields and ideas in science that study natural systems are biomimicry, chaos theory and the Gaia Hypothesis. Biomimicry looks at natural patterns, biological engineering and mathematics to help design human structures and technology. Chaos theory studies how self-organizing systems break down or transform. Finally, the Gaia Hypothesis (ガイア理論) views the entire Earth (Nature) as a self-organizing system which has maintained and evolved life on our planet for over a billion years.
A number of science fiction movies (such as Avatar, 風の谷のナウシカ, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and もののけ姫) have explored related themes, that Nature is a highly intelligent being, and that humans need to evolve our intelligence to live in balance and harmony with the wisdom of the Earth.
Part Four – The Incredible Butterfly Effect!!
Probably the most well known systems theory is The Butterfly Effect (バタフライ効果), an idea from chaos theory. Because everything in Nature is connected interdependently a small action in one place can have a huge impact on other systems around it and on the future. A similar idea exists in traditional Japanese culture – that any event can bring about a big effect in an unexpected way（かぜがふけばおけやがもうかる）.
An example would be how the corona virus can kill someone and has affected human civilization (maybe soon crashing our economy). Or how the video of George Floyd went “viral” and started demonstrations against racism all over the world. When the actions or ideas of one person (like Buddha, Einstein, Hitler) changes the world a butterfly effect has been set in motion.
Butterfly effects are not just BIG events, they happen at all levels, all the time. In the 1920’s, my grandparents met because my grandma Alice was walking in New York City and a small piece of dust blew into her eye. She was right in front of my grandfather Moe’s flower shop at that moment and stopped walking. He had a chair in front of his shop and invited her to sit down. Moe took the dust out of her eye with a handkerchief and immediately fell in love with Alice (he thought she was very beautiful). If the dust had not blown into her eye she would never have stopped, they would not have met, and my mother, aunt, cousins, sons (and their cousins) and I would not exist. THAT is the power of the butterfly effect!!
Here’s the Japanese Youtuber Naokiman talking about the butterfly effect:
Many science fiction films that focus on time travel show how butterfly effects happen constantly and influence our lives. Examples would be the movies Back to the Future, Avengers Endgame, About Time and The Butterfly Effect.
Part Five: Your Brain is a Creative Learning System!
While I have a long interest in science and creativity, my primary field of study in graduate school was education. After living in Japan a few years (and meeting my wife, Hiroko) we returned to the United States and moved to California, where I studied child development, psychology and education at Stanford University, from 1988-1993.
One really interesting thing I learned is that the human brain is essentially a creative learning device, with powerful potential. When you were born your mind was empty, you knew nothing, but over time (as you interacted with the world around you) your brain built memories, beliefs, knowledge, values, behavior patterns and many, many, many skills.
An analogy would be that when we are born our brain is like a super computer without software, with the power to build software for ourselves as we interacted with the world. A machine can be constructed by others, but our brain is self-constructing because we each must build skills by ourselves. That is what makes human beings different from robots and computers. We use sensory input from our lives, cultures and experiences to create new skills and understandings (in our brains) by our own observation, practice and effort.
Think about how you learned to ride a bicycle, play a musical instrument or master a sport. Mastery is when we become highly skillful at something. At first you knew nothing, but as you practiced the guitar, practiced riding a bike or practiced playing a sport, you gained more skill over time. Your brain is a creative self-constructing system, meaning that only you can build new skills and knowledge. The people and conditions around you are also very important. If you don’t give practice time and attention to something (and are not given the opportunity by adults) you cannot build new skills.
Another interesting thing I learned at Stanford is that every human being has at least 8 different types of intelligence that we have the potential to develop. The psychologist Howard Gardner calls this MI theory, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Your brain is like a creative super computer with multiple intelligences, a variety of learning potentials designed by Nature over hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
Many of these intelligences are shared by other animal species. Social and emotionalintelligences help us build close relationships with others. They are the most important skills for experiencing happiness, creating a family, making friendships and working together with others. Linguistic(language) intelligence is what allows for communication, also essential for building relationships and community. Mathematicalintelligence is essential for science and economics.
Ecological and spatial intelligences are two forms of visual intelligence that use the imagination, as I talked about before. Your imagination is essential for creativity and the arts, but also for representing knowledge, as scientists such as Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein have talked about.
Finally, musical and physical intelligence are closely connected with your body. Einstein was a skilled musician, and said his imagination and musical intelligence worked together synergistically with his understanding of mathematics to help him understand the laws of physics. So although these various intelligences are each different, we need to use them together creatively to be successful in our lives.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.” -Albert Einstein
Over your lifetime your brain will build thousands of different skill patterns. Each pattern is unique, with specific areas of your brain working together in harmony, like musicians in a band or muscles in your body. Each new skill (like playing the piano) is composed of hundreds of sub-patterns (like specific songs) that can take years to grow and develop, as you gain mastery. The human brain is the most complex and creative learning device on our planet, but without years of practice and experience (and opportunity) your brain cannot master new skills!
Part Six – Creative Systems Thinking
Now that I’ve explained about your brain and multiple intelligences I’d like to return to the topic of systems thinking. I believe that human wisdom and creativity are two examples of systems thinking and that (as Einstein said) our imagination is most important. If you listen to wise people they often talk about how everything is connected in reality. Systems thinkers use their visual intelligence to represent the connections and relationships of systems in the world.
Even children have powerful systems thinking potential. The 12 year old students that I taught science in California were able to understand the complex relationship between our biological systems and Nature when I showed them a visual illustration. Severn Suzuki was also 12 years old but could understand with her imagination (better than most adults) how the global economy, poverty, consumer culture and environmental destruction are all connected. She also demonstrates social and emotional intelligence as well as language intelligence. She is using multiple intelligences together during her speech.
Wise people throughout history have used their imaginations (together with other intelligences) to help them understand how everything in the Universe is connected together. Leonardo da Vinci, Buddha, Einstein, Jesus and Lao Tsu (道德经) were systems thinkers, in my opinion. We can find examples of systems thinking in all cultures, because wisdom and creativity have always been essential for human success and survival.
Here below are examples of systems thinking by two men- Mikhail Gorbachev and Steven Jobs. Gorbachev talks about the need for a new global economy that is ecological, balanced with nature instead of being destructive. So he is demonstrating spatial and ecological intelligence. Steve Jobs talks about how people need to work together in teams. He is expressing social and visual intelligence together.
Usually people think of Martin Luther King, Jr as a spiritual leader, but if you listen to him talk in this video I made (below) you can see how he uses his social, emotional, language and visual intelligences synergistically to explain how everything is connected. He says that, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
Part Seven – Creative, Regenerative and Destructive Potentials of Nature
Human beings and all living systems are highly creative. Your brain is creative, but also your body. When your parents’ DNA joined together your life as a unique individual began. Thanks to love, they created you! But that was just the beginning. For 9 months you grew your biological systems inside your mother. This was your first creative act, slowly building your body with the DNA information from your parents. Then after you were born you continued to grow, and your brain began to create all the skills and knowledge you have today. This is the miracle of life, interdependence and our natural creativity. Both your body and brain are creative self-organizing self-constructing systems!
Along with being creative, Nature’s systems are also regenerative (自然治癒力). Regeneration is another essential systems principle. It means that a living system (body, brain, community, ecosystem) will preserve and maintain its organization and healthy functioning, that it is sustainable (持続可能性) over time.
Life is self-organizing, interdependent and self-sustaining. The drawing of how your body is solar powered shows this. We are connected to everything around us. Your brain uses five senses to take in information. Your body takes in oxygen, energy, water and other materials from your environment to maintain and “regenerate” your biological systems. This is similar to how the economy works, which is also a self-organizing system. All animals, plants and ecosystems must regenerate, we require constant transactions with our environment to maintain our structures and existence.
Of course, a part of life is death. Living systems can regenerate for a long time, but at some point they will collapse and break down, especially if they lack the materials they need to survive. This process is called degeneration.
Throughout history, many human cultures had an understanding of these 3 key processes of Nature, where creation, regeneration (maintenance) and degeneration all function together. In India, the Hindu culture developed the idea of trimūrti (Japanese: 三神一体, Sanskrit: त्रिमूर्ति), three Gods that represent the creative, regenerative and degenerative powers of the Universe. 「ブラフマー、ヴィシュヌ、シヴァの3柱は、宇宙の創造、維持、破壊という3つの機能が3人組という形で神格化されたものであるとする。」
In order to survive, many human cultures developed myths and religious ideas that encouraged systems thinking, helping them to live in harmony with Nature’s laws and principles. Nowadays, our global high technology civilization is rapidly destroying the regenerative potential of Nature. We describe this as being un-sustainable, reducing sustainability, the maintenance function of ecological systems. Most environmental problems are examples of Nature’s regenerative power being damaged by the industrialized economy and mass consumption of human beings.
Throughout human history, our species has lived in harmony with Nature. I believe this is because ancient people used their imaginations creatively and understood the relationship of humans to Nature better. Their myths and religions were not just fantasy, they were creative cultural stories (like modern movies) that helped people understand fundamental systems processes and principles.
Part Eight – Why is Our Modern Economic System So Out of Balance with Nature?
Currently, our global human civilization’s relationship with Nature is degenerative and parasitic rather than mutualistic and regenerative. We have been living out of balance with Nature. Many modern people don’t even understand that we are a part of Nature, they believe we are superior to all the animals.
When you watched Severn Suzuki‘s 1992 presentation in Rio de Janeiro, did you wonder why was 12 year old Severn so smart? It’s probably thanks to her father, David Suzuki, a Japanese-Canadian scientist and environmentalist. David Suzuki has been concerned about how many modern economists ignore the effects of industrialization on the environment. Some economists call the impact of the economy on nature externalities (something corporations don’t have to worry about). Suzuki feels this thinking is crazy and calls modern economics brain damage.
What scientists are now learning is that human economic activity is responsible for most of the damage we are experiencing with nature. Climate change, sea levels rising, pollution, species extinctions, deserts growing, water shortages, fires in Australia, floods in Japan and other dangers that are getting worse require that the understandings of economics and ecology are brought together. As David Suzuki puts it, we have to “put the ECO back into economics.”
Unfortunately, most business and government leaders are primarily focused on creating profits (money) rather than caring for Nature’s regenerative potential and restoration for future generations. They understand the importance of economic transactions but not ecological transactions.
This is what Greta Thunberg and Severn Suzuki tried to explain, and why millions of young people are angry now. If Nature is not managed well and restored your generation (and all future generations) may experience crisis after crisis in the future.
Our modern civilization has been focused on technological advances, material wealth and entertainment (movies, music, television, games), while ignoring our destructive impact on (and connection to) Nature. If the creative and regenerative powers of living systems are not supported then degenerative processes of chaos will increase and entire ecosystems will collapse.
We see this with the corona virus. It is causing problems now because it can damage the regenerative potential of human bodies, leading to death. Also, if the economy collapses from debts it means a degenerative economic stage will begin.
Yet even more dangerous are the effects of pollution and climate change, which could lead to the extinction of many species and the collapse of human civilization. Many science fiction movies and stories have warned about this, and now that fiction is becoming our reality.
The wisdom of indigenous peoples and systems thinking is understanding that all living systems in our universe have creative (generative), regenerative (self-sustaining) and destructive (degenerative) potential. If we support the creative and regenerative potential of natural systems they will be strong, successful and thrive. If we do not, then systems will start to degenerate and collapse.
All living systems must collapse eventually, but the genius of Nature and evolution is that life can continue to regenerate and evolve even after collapse. And the genius of human beings is that we have the highest creative potential on the planet. Buckminster Fuller, a great systems thinker, said that when something humans have designed is not working the best approach is to design a new model that is more effective.
THAT is the challenge for human beings in the 21st century, I think. We need to all work together, be creative and redesign everything. Economic systems, education, government, energy, technology, transportation, agriculture. All of these systems can be evolved and improved, so that human beings can once again live in harmony with Nature.
Part Nine – The Powerful Potential of Regenerative Agriculture
Although our situation is dangerous now, I am actually very optimistic. There are many creative solutions we can implement and new ones that can be invented. We just need to all be creative systems thinkers, like people were in the past. As an example, for thousands of years most human farming was regenerative, meaning that humans grew food in harmony with Nature. As the video below explains, regenerative agriculture views farming as an ecosystem.
Unfortunately, industrial farming is part of a globalized business system run by large corporations that care more about money and profit than Nature or human health. The methods of industrial farming are toxic, wasteful and degenerative, farmers kill insect species and destroy the health of the soil, putting massive amounts of CO2 into the air and contributing to global warming. Most large companies that sell food spray chemicals on their products and ship it far away to other countries instead of growing food locally.
As David Suzuki has explained, they are not using their imaginations and thinking about externalities, the impact of their actions on the environment around us. This has contributed to climate change, uses a lot of energy and has caused great damage to Nature. Regenerative agriculture can transform human food production into something helpful rather than harmful, acting as global carbon sinks.
Eventually the industrial approach will collapse (if changes are not made), we won’t have enough water and healthy soil to grow food for everyone. That would mean mass human starvation and global species extinctions. Please read these links (in Japanese) to understand better: 次世代農業を展望する & 工業化された農業によって地球は「第六の大量絶滅期」を迎えると科学者が警鐘を鳴らす
A well known type of regenerative agriculture in Japan is natural farming (自然農法), an ecological farming approach established by Masanobu Fukuoka福岡正信 (1913–2008), who introduced these ideas in his book The One-Straw Revolution. Fukuoka described his way of farming as 自然農法 (shizen nōhō). It is also referred to as “the Fukuoka Method”, “the natural way of farming” or “do-nothing farming”.
Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming is similar to organic farming, sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, ecoagriculture and permaculture. There are many different regenerative methods. By working together with Nature, not fighting and destroying Nature, they can increase biodiversity, returning carbon and water to the soil. The most important thing is for every community to focus on growing as much of its own food as possible, locally.
Part Ten – Shifting from Globalization to More Local Economics
As we have seen, the industrial global economy creates huge profits and wealth for only a few people. It also wastes resources, uses much energy and destroys the natural environment. Local economics is community centered, focusing on maximizing the creative and regenerative potential of nature and people in every location.
It’s similar to how your body cares for all cells equally. If you do not have healthy cells everywhere in your body you will become sick. Indigenous cultures all take this approach, focusing on keeping a balance between Nature and community, and thinking about future generations. The old economic systems of Asia were similar, actually, such as the Satoyama culture of Japan.
Our global economy uses destructive methods to grow food quickly, in order to mass produce things and make a lot of money for business investors. Cheap labor is needed so people around the world are kept poor as they grow crops like cocoa, coffee, bananas and cotton to export to wealthier people in rich nations.
Why is our global economy designed this way, keeping billions very poor but making a small number of human beings very wealthy? The modern period we are in now is sometimes called the age of globalization, but it has its roots in colonialism, as well as racism and slavery. Every system that exists has a long history, with our global economic system going back thousands of years to the beginning of large human empire civilizations.
Please watch the first 7 minutes of this video (in English with Japanese subtitles). They describe how slavery began as a way to find cheap labor for mass the production of products. The purpose was to use people to increase the economic prosperity of wealthy nations.
After World War 2 ended, the wealthiest nations of Asia, Europe and North America experienced greater peace within their countries. Unfortunately, militarism is still very strong and wars have continued in poor parts of the world with great resources, such as the Middle East and Africa. This situation is sometimes called the North-South Divide.
Most of the strongest economic powers right now are former colonial empires, like Japan, France, England, Germany, America and Russia. We’ve been able to keep our relationships peaceful and our interconnected global economy strong, while still allowing wars and poverty to continue in less rich and powerful nations. How has this been done?
Nowadays, slavery is illegal, but still billions of poor people in Africa (and around the world) are used as “cheap labor” for the mass production of foods like cocoa and to produce metals and diamonds. They do not unite because wars (using weapons supplied by Northern nations) create social chaos. Meanwhile, poor people are working hard to provide us with a convenient life.
Why is the global economy so destructive towards poor people, often treating workers very badly, especially the primary producers who grow crops or work in factories? A documentary film called The Corporation (ザ・コーポレーション) looked at these questions:
After watching these videos please do some research on these topics. Do you agree or disagree that our modern global economy is a new form of colonialism? Do you believe that the whistleblower John Perkins is truthfully describing what he witnessed? What is your opinion of the perspectives shared here?
Part Eleven – How to Become Wiser as a Species, How to Align with the Laws of Nature?
In order to make these changes we have looked at, big shifts in thinking and culture are needed. Why aren’t these ideas being shared more widely in schools? Why aren’t more children encouraged to develop all their multiple intelligences and use their imagination as Einstein suggested?
Currently most education is highly compartmentalized. Teachers are responsible for only one topic and students study that topic alone, without learning about connections. Children’s multiple intelligences are usually ignored. The goal for students is to memorize information for tests, but it’s difficult to remember because the focus is mostly on words and numbers (linguistic and mathematical intelligence). There is little emphasis on using your imagination (visual intelligence) to understand how everything in history, nature and the universe fits together and is interrelated.
My view is that most problems in the world (such as war, racism, economic collapse, environmental destruction, drug addiction, suicide, poverty) exist because modern human civilizations (and our education systems) teach us to ignore the way everything (and everyone) on our planet is connected. They teach us to compartmentalize (separate) knowledge in our heads rather than how to use our imaginations to connect all knowledge together. They don’t teach how we are connected to human history, Nature, our solar system and the Universe.
Most people also believe that imagination and visual intelligence are rare strengths of artists, not a common human potential we all must develop to understand reality better. I wanted to be an artist because I thought my skills were rare but decided to focus on education and science because I believe that all children have great creative potential.
I love scientists like Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, and Leonardo Da Vinci who describe the interconnections and beauty of our Universe. All of them shared the idea that your imagination is essential to help you understand how everything that exists is connected together and exists as a unified whole. Modern artist Josephine Wall created this painting to express that same idea.
I believe that the best way to help children become wiser and more creative is for education to focus more on art and music, developing social intelligence, emotional intelligence and enjoying learning as a community. Everyone has unknown potentials, each of us is unique in a different way. Children should spend more time outside in forests and on beaches, learning from Nature directly, as indigenous people do. We should also study how everything in history and nature is connected. If we use our imaginations wisely we can come up with local solutions to complex problems, such as the racism, poverty and environmental destruction that is happening now.
For the last hundred years education systems around the world have focused too much on testing and measuring children. Students spend too much time in classrooms with books, and now with technology. It’s often boring and very competitive, and does not give children enough chance to be creative.
When I was in graduate school, I worked on a school reform project that focused on the equal education of every child in a community. We encouraged children to be creative and learn outside the classroom. To help a community improve its potential every child must be given a chance to to develop multiple intelligences, skills and talents. Please watch this video showing this type of project:
The goal with this form of education is make schools like a community, to help children develop their multiple intelligences and creative potential, so they can understand how everything (and everyone) is connected together. By focusing on interesting experiences and creative learning children will be better prepared to solve complex problems and build strong social relationships, enjoying their lives and hopefully feeling grateful for this mysterious Universe and beautiful planet that we live upon.
Nature’s wisdom can be shared with children. Nature’s wisdom is inside all children. We are Nature! The key for good education is connecting knowledge with imagination and compassion (love). When we bring love (social and emotional intelligence), imagination (visual intelligence) and knowledge (linguistic, mathematical intelligence) together creatively (as David Suzuki helped his daughter Severn to do) even children can become highly skilled and very wise.
If we learn directly from Nature, learn to use our heart and imagination together, we will all begin to think more like Albert Einstein. This is the great challenge and opportunity of our time!
Because of our advanced technology, many modern humans think of themselves as more intelligent than Nature. Many believe humans are the most intelligent life. Yet we are the most destructive species! We look at Indigenous cultures and call them “primitive” but don’t realize the wisdom they had, that we need.
Why are modern humans the most powerful species on the planet?Please watch this TED Talk (with Japanese subtitles) by Yuval Harari, an Israeli researcher. He talks about why humans have been such a successful species, but also why we have so many problems. Harari believes that our power comes from cooperation skills and imagination. With our imaginations (and language skills) humans have created powerful cultures that can unite large numbers of us together, including the cultures of nationalism, religions, colonialism, empires and globalization.
Harari calls this a “fiction” because human beliefs (like racial superiority, nationalism, even money) are like stories in our minds that groups of people share and see as truth. Sometimes these stories can be very helpful but sometimes they can become a kind of brainwashing or mind control, like with Nazi Germany or North Korea.
Wisdom may require an open mind and open heart, where we don’t believe everything our culture tells us is true. With compassion and wisdom, we become careful about what we believe and try to connect more directly with “objective” reality.
One way to think about this is that Nature gave us our hardware (biology, multiple intelligences, social community) but culture is like software. The recent “ego-logic” of empire civilizations is something new, that we have the power to change. We cannot change our biology or the laws of Nature, but we can change our cultures and the human systems (political, economic, military, industrial, educational, technological) that we have created.
Nature took over a billion years to design countless species using creative, regenerative (and degenerative) processes. Our own species is rather young. We spread out from Africa over a hundred thousand years ago and now we have come together again. It’s a miracle that we are here, but we need to unite together and change how we think and act if we want to create a happy future.
Especially right now, as we face many potential crisis, I believe that human beings need to change how we think and live. We need to become wiser as a species, we need to evolve our cultures and redesign our human systems. By valuing imagination, learning, love, local community and Nature’s wisdom (more than technology and money) we have a better chance of fixing our problems and living in harmony with Mother Earth. If you want to be happy the most important thing is to share love and to love your life. Please see Alan Watts ideas (in English with Japanese translations) about this below:
We are all connected to Nature and each other. It is your true human potential to be creative, wise and loving. We need to love Nature and take care of all other animals, like we are one family. If modern humans value and develop that potential we will be happy. If we don’t, the future will bring much unhappiness. Indigenous wisdom tells us this, and so does modern science. Systems thinking has guided human beings for tens of thousands of years.
Butterfly effects can create chaos, but they can also regenerate and transform global systems. With imagination and love we can evolve our cultures and the whole world. We need to re-design our current economic system, to make it regenerative instead of destructive. We have a big debt to Nature, we must pay back that debt. We can BE a Global Butterfly Effect. Let’s work together, all future generations are depending on us!
“The most interesting thing I learned from this class is that we need to use both creativity and wisdom. I have been taught a lot of knowledge since I entered an elementary school. To be honest, the education was boring to me because we were required to gain knowledge efficiently without realizing how to use it. However, after taking this class, I realized that what we needed in education was creativity in our mind and wisdom from the ancestors. They are useful and help us understand and tackle what is happening in the world correctly. In order for everyone to use them naturally, we need to adopt the educational system to one where creativity and wisdom are thought to be the most important factors.” ~Japanese student providing feedback about this class
The following is a replica of the first of three units of an Integrated English course presented online via Moodle forums and Zoom meetings, for Science students at Kyushu University during the second semester of 2020, in Fukuoka, Japan. Most of the videos are in English, with Japanese subtitles. I did not create the images or youtube videos, only the text below and arrangement of topics. Anyone who wishes to adapt or use any part of this for educational purposes has my permission, I would only ask that you link to this page, as the source. ~Christopher Chase, 2021
Life on Earth is amazing and beautiful. Unfortunately, we are facing a large number of environmental problems in the 21st Century. Please watch all these videos, read the information and then share your opinion about the 12 topics, 100+ words for each topic.
Topic 1 – Rising Global CO2 Levels – This graph from NASA below shows the rise in carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere over the last 100 years. In 2013 (when this graph was made) the level was about 394ppm. This year, it is at 411ppm, a rise of over 15 ppm in 7 years. The levels go up and down each month, but the trend is rising.
If the Earth’s CO2 levels continue to rise the planet will get hotter. In order to protect life on our planet in the 21st Century we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, and not allow a temperature rise above 1.5 or 2.0 degrees.
Unfortunately, most governments and businesses have not taken effective action to do this. The reason is that it will require reducing our energy use and slowing down the global economy. The situation is very similar to the corona virus crisis. In order to flatten the curve of CO2 levels, all human beings must act together. We all must change our life styles and reduce our carbon footprint.
Topic 2 – Severn Suzuki’s Speech in Rio – In 1992, a 12 year old Japanese-Canadian girl named Severn Suzuki made a powerful speech about the world’s environmental crisis to adults in Rio de Janeiro. This video is short, with Japanese subtitles. What is your opinion about Severn’s speech? Do you feel that business and government leaders listened to her and made changes?
Topic 3 – Here are 2 videos from BBC News that provide a lot of information about the Environmental Crisis– A global temperature rise above 1.5 – 2.0 degrees will melt ice sheets, raise ocean water levels, create more forest fires, bring drought (which could damage farming and reduce food supplies) and create water shortages. It could also lead to a sixth mass extinction of animals, insects and plants. What is your opinion about the information in these two videos?
Topic 4– In 1995, Michael Jackson wrote a song for our Planet Earth and made this music video: Earth Song. You can read the English lyrics here with Japanese translation here. The message of his video is similar to Severn Suzuki’s speech. He shows the destruction modern humans have done to Nature, indigenous peoples, and also with our wars. What is your opinion about his song and video?
Topic 5 – Michael Jackson’s video included indigenous people from South America and Africa. Please watch this video: 母なる大地、アメリカ先住民族の想. For indigenous peoples, Nature is seen as our Mother and an Intelligent Living Spirit. We are all the children of Nature, so indigenous peoples feel we must love Nature and care for her. They see clean water, food and air as gifts from our Mother Earth. They feel responsible to all future generations and don’t understand why modern people care more about technology, economics and money than our beautiful planet. What is your opinion of their traditional cultures and ideas? Why don’t more modern people in high technology cultures think and feel the same way? Can you think of any films you have seen that share this same message?
Topic 6 – 気候変動の知られざる影響とは？ 世界が称賛し国連が泣いた日系マーシャル人スピーチ！ This powerful speech was made in 2014, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, at the United Nations. She talked about climate change and how it will effect the future for her children and millions of others.What is your opinion about her speech?
Topic 7 – The Climate Strike Movement Spreads Globally in 2019 – Last year, Climate Strike Demonstrations begun by a 16 year old girl named Greta Thunberg were held all over the world. Here is another video, of a small demonstration of students in Japan: 学生らの気候変動デモ「温暖化は自分たちの問題だ」国会前に20人 – What is your opinion of this youth movement? Why do you think young people around the world are more active than adults?
Topic 8 – Greta vs. Trump! As Greta Thunberg and Climate Strikes became more active, President Trump started to make comments about them. Please watch these two videos. In September, young Greta traveled from Sweden to the United States. She became angry at a UN conference, because the adults appeared to be ignoring both scientists and protesters. CO2 levels keep rising each year, with UN projections for a 3-5 degree rise, which would mean a global disaster. Greta is usually very calm when she speaks, and may have been angered after seeing President Trump, who talked about her on twitter but ignored her that day. What is your opinion about this?Do you think Greta is too angry or can you understand her feelings?
Topic 9 – Please watch these videos about the 2019 & 2020 wildfires in Australia and the United States: “まるで火星”焼失拡大続く カリフォルニア州山火事 & オーストラリアの希少動物が危機. As the planet gets hotter some places are experiencing more or less rain. In Japan and East Asia we are having more floods, but in Australia, Africa and the West Coast of America they are having terrible wildfires. This year and last year some places experienced the worst wildfires in human history. Did you know about these fires? What is your opinion about this?
Topic 10 – Sustainable Development Goals, Planetary Boundaries & Climate Tipping Points. In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 SDGs (17 持続可能な開発目標) for the world to reach by 2030. In 2018, Swedish scientist Johan Rockström explained we may have difficulty reaching these goals (持続可能な世界を築 – please watch first 4 minutes) because many countries focus more on Goal 8 (Economic Growth).
Recently, Prime Minister Suga announced that Japan plans to become carbon neutral by 2050, but do we have that much time?Many scientists believe world government and business leaders are moving dangerously slow, because they worry too much about the economy.
After you have discussed together and understand these issues, please share your opinion about the SDGs, Planetary Boundaries and Tipping Points.
Topic 11 (Solutions) – The Power of Consumer Consciousness & Education – Many of these problems are really really serious, so what can we do? The first step is to educate ourselves and our friends. Please watch these videos. Most of these problems are caused by our global economic system that has poorer nations produce things cheaply to sell to people in the wealthiest nations. What is your opinion about this?
Topic 12 (Solutions) – The POWER of Global Action in 2020. This year, every person and country on earth took strong action together to try and “flatten the curve” and stop the corona virus. Nothing like this has ever happened before in human history!!! Unfortunately, with environmental problems, for over 30 years human action has been too slow and very limited. I think a big reason is most modern people don’t know how much destruction wealthy nations cause for indigenous peoples, poor nations and Nature. Johan Rockström shares some of his ideas about how we can influence big changes and take action.What do you think of his suggestions? Do you think after the corona virus crisis humans may change and become more organized and active about the environmental crisis? What can we do to help?
Topic 13 (Solutions) – Creating a New Economic System for the Earth & People: From Globalization to Localization. In order to reverse climate change, save Nature & help future generations, our global economy may need to become much more localized, where the value of human well-being and local community is the focus, instead of valuing large corporate profits, manufactured goods and money. In Japan this is called 地産地消 (chi san chi shou), local production for local consumption. Please watch these two videos, they explain these ideas well: 幸せの経済学（短縮版）& ヴァンダナ・シヴァの いのちの種を抱きしめて– What do you think about these ideas?
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein
Right now two starkly different visions of “personalized learning” are being put forward by education reformers around the world. One model has the development of Artificial Intelligence at the center, creating A.I. programs to teach children one-to-one via computers.
Schools and teachers that take the M.I. approach are aligned with how children naturally learn, focusing on developing children’s creative skills and interacting with one’s local community. The goal is to help each child actualize their unique human potential and Multiple Intelligences (a mix of social, emotional, linguistic, mathematical, musical, physical, ecological and visual arts capabilities).
This requires that children sing, dance, paint, communicate, read for pleasure, play freely, collaborate on projects, solve real-world problems, build strong relationships and connect meaningfully with the natural world.
On the other hand (as this BBC video below shows), the A.I. approach being designed by Silicon Valley pioneers provides a way to have students learn primarily from increased screen time with computers. Professional teachers don’t need to be physically present with the children. There is much less social interaction, less art focus, reduced communication and very little group learning.
The A.I. teaching system is expensive to produce but very effective for raising test scores. Students will be observed by cameras. Private data is collected for each learner, to be stored off site and analyzed.
The goal of this model is for tech companies to collect “big data” from children, developing algorithms to construct A.I. that can one day teach millions of students at their own pace, simultaneously. It’s called personalized learning, but actually its not very personal. The students’ main teacher will be a computer program.
The second model of “learner-centered” M.I. education has been in development for hundreds if not thousands of years, rooted in apprenticeship learning approaches. It is more community focused, with more communication and mastery learning alongside adults and peers.
The focus is simultaneously on group learning and each child’s growth and development, helping each learner’s multiple intelligences to grow and thrive while building strong relationships with others.
The M.I. approach is related to the model Maria Montessori pioneered over a century ago, which has shown great success in Finland. Not much technology is needed, as human relationships, self-directed learning and real world interactions are central. Not much data is collected. But children learn to work together creatively, collaborate, grow their skills and experience a sense of community. This video from the Mission Hill project shows how such an approach works.
These two models could be available to all children in the very near future. While very different in approach, both support a transition away from high-stakes testing, along with teacher and text book centered education.
With direct A.I. “hyper-personalized” instruction via computers, testing and data collection will now happen constantly, every day. Children are no longer compared with each other, thereby reducing test taking anxiety. They will probably do well on standardized tests with all that daily practice.
With an M.I. and local community focus tests are not even considered very important. Developing each child’s creativity and unique potential is the focus. Test scores will rise naturally, but many of the skills young people develop can not be easily measured.
Another example of the M.I. approach (video above), Boston Arts Academy provides a mix of academic and arts classes. The high school’s graduates do well on tests, and are valued both by colleges and employers. I worked on a similar project in the early 1990s, at Stanford University.
Unfortunately, for the last two decades most nations have put more emphasis on computers and test scores than creativity, community learning and whole child development. If we want our children to develop their full potential we need to think deeply about the kinds of learning tasks, environments and opportunities we provide for them.
Over the past 100 years, the view of science has undergone a major shift that can be called the “Systems Revolution”. It originated in feedback theory in engineering, developed in the fields of quantum mechanics and biology of physics, and now permeates cognitive behavioral science and social science. This scientific view is based on the dynamic “living system” theory, not the static “mechanical system theory”.
In the Newtonian view, the world is made up of things. In [the unified] scientific view called “New Science” [or Systems Science], when you know the reality of systems, you pay attention to “relationships” rather than “things”.
Substances that make up human hands are completely replaced in a few months, and the human body is also replaced in a few years. It can be said that people are not things, but always a process or ability to continue to regenerate, the human body is like a river, and we are “things” by looking at snapshots of structures that are always flowing.
However, a substance basically results from relationships. For this reason, biologists say that “living systems” are self-generating. “Living systems” all have the ability to create themselves, so that they can self-organize and perceive the environment—where life can find its meaning. It is a process.
The view of the world of “living systems” does not deny the Newtonian view but includes it. The problem lies in our implicit habit of trying to understand everything through the Newtonian ideas of “things” and “machines”.
When we re-examine school education as a “living system”, the learning process comes “alive”.
Learner-centered learning occurs, not teacher-centered.
Diversity is encouraged, not uniformity—multiple intelligence and learning style.
Understand the world as interdependence and change, instead of memorizing “lists of facts and correct answers.”
Search for “use theory” (practical logic to be used in reality) of all people involved in the education process.
Reintegrate education within a social network of friends, family, and local communities
If you think of school as a “living system”, you can see that it is constantly evolving. It is the question of the learner who participates in helping the evolution. Also, teachers’ jobs are the same, and it is important to support the learning process that children have naturally.
学習する組織は、上記の５つのディシプリンを中核とおくものの、その他の学習コンセプトも取り入れている。例えば、「多様な知性(multiple intelligence)」、「思考の習慣(habits of mind)」などがその例である。
A “learning school” can be considered at the level of at least three systems.
・Community to learn
・Both residents and schools need to be aware of the interdependence between schools and communities.
・The school is also a good place to promote learning for all ages, and has the role of creating an environment for promoting lifelong learning for local “lifelong learners”.
The concept of “learning organization”, which has already achieved results in the business world, is the backbone of the “learning school” program.
“Learning Organization” is an organizational and human resource development approach integrated by Peter Senge, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan Business School. Ford, GE, Shell, BP, and many other companies around the world Introduced in executive training.
“Learning organization” refers to “an organization that continues to improve the ability and awareness of teams to effectively achieve their goals”. The “5 disciplines” (the total of wisdom and skills to learn and acquire) listed in the learning organization are as follows.
1) Mental model – “Mental model” is the “premise of people and things in the world” that each person has, including mindsets and paradigms. Pay attention to your mental model and its consequences, and if it doesn’t work, look for the defects in your mental model, rather than seeking the cause outside.
2) Team learning / communication – “Team learning” is a process of exploring their mental model and the whole picture of problems through dialogue with people inside and outside the team and organization, and matching the intentions of the parties concerned. Above all, the “dialog” is a series of methods that focus on “speaking with real intentions” and searching the true cause and purpose of the problem by raising the state of awareness in the group.
3) Systems thinking – “Systems thinking” is a way of looking at things as a series of connected elements and focusing on the quality and interaction of the connections. It is often applied as a method for global optimization and complex problem solving. It is also the idea that forms the basis of the “living system” theory.
4) Self-mastery – “Self-mastery” means having a clear vision of “how you want to be” and “what you want to create”, changing the tension between vision and reality into creative power, This is an intrinsic motivation process.
5) Shared vision – “Shared vision” is the process of creating a vision that can be shared and permeated as an organization by superimposing the visions of management and members. Once a vision is shared, it shows the organization’s behavior, results, and learning guidelines as a compass.
Of these five disciplines, 1) and 2) are “capabilities of co-creative dialogue”, 3) are “capabilities of understanding complexity”, and 4) and 5) are “capabilities of nurturing will” In an organized learning organization, it is important to develop these three abilities in a balanced manner.
The learning organization has the above five disciplines at its core, but incorporates other learning concepts. For example, “multiple intelligence”, “habits of mind”, and the like.