We are now less than two months from the presidential election of 2016. If you ever had any doubt that our society is in crisis, the nature of this year’s political season should give you pause. We are indeed living in unprecedented times.

It’s Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. How did we get here? What is the significance of this election and, most importantly, who is going to win and why?

Even if you have already decided that Clinton is a better choice than Trump, it is still important to understand how Trump got to be one of two people who could be the next President of the United States. Clinton is a known political entity, but what does the Trump candidacy tell us about the future of our political process going forward?

Let’s begin by looking at the motivations of the people at the top of their tickets. Why is Clinton running for president and why is Trump doing so?

I think it’s fair to say that anyone running for president has at least some motivation to attempt to shape the world according to their view of how things should be. It’s also true that politicians have personal ambitions and goals in addition to their mission to change the world according to their beliefs.

With respect to Hillary, one of her personal ambitions is to be the first woman president and open doors of possibility for women. She has also a lot she wants to accomplish that she believes will empower our citizens. When you look at her personal history, you see someone motivated by a mission of service.

With Trump on the other hand, my reading is that his primary motivation for running for president is self-promotion. This is not so unusual. If you look at the people running for president in the last two cycles, you see several people with that motive, especially on the Republican side. They don’t have any realistic chance of winning. But they know if they run, they can gain attention and lucrative speaking and media gigs later.

So, was Trump’s entry into the Republican primary race a stunt that got out of control? There has been a lot of speculation that some of the more self-damaging things Trump has done in his campaign are a sign that he doesn’t really want to be president.

My reading is no. I believe he went in thinking he could be the Republican nominee and eventually president. Trump run for president is a rebranding effort. It’s an attempt to move his career from that of businessman and professional celebrity to being the bully in the White House. He wants to be for the United States what Putin is for Russia.

Trump’s self-interested motivations for running are problematic in more than one way. It’s pretty evident that he has narcissistic personality disorder. Thus, he has an oversized ego and is somewhat delusional with respect to who he is and what he can do. I imagine he thought to himself, “I can do this. It’s not so hard. People will flock to my campaign.”

As it turned out, he received 14 million votes in the Republican primary and defeated 16 rivals, including some very well funded opponents and conservative icons.

Running for president feeds his pathological need for attention and assures him the spotlight, at least for the time being. If he wins the White House, his brand is triumphant and this will move his business ventures to unprecedented levels of success.

However, along with the attention of being the Republican nominee, there is increased scrutiny about all aspects of Trump’s life.

If you look at how Trump has conducted his campaign and look at his past life from a nonpartisan perspective, you cannot help but come to the conclusion that Donald J. Trump is a thoroughly dishonorable human being. By this I mean he is someone who has a consistent pattern of lying, cheating, and stealing.

It would be a book length treatment to detail these misdeeds, so let’s just look at a couple of telling indicators. With respect to lying, PolitiFact, a fact checking organization, rated 72% of Trump’s public remarks about factual circumstances as false. That means that nearly three-fourths of the time he’s not speaking the truth whenever he purports to cite factual support for what he says.

We don’t know for sure how many of the falsehoods that come out of Trump’s mouth are deliberate lies and how many are a result of his uncritically accepting whatever he takes on from the alt-right propaganda mill.

In any case, Trump doesn’t seem to be concerned with veracity. He’s interested in the impact of what he says. He’s following the sociopath’s credo: what sells is right, good, and true.

With respect to cheating and stealing, you only have to look at the 3,500 lawsuits that have been filed against Trump in his business career. To detail these would require another book.

If Trump is indeed so dishonorable, how did he get this far? How does he get away with it? Trump has said things in his time as a candidate that would have ended the candidacy of anyone else.

If you look at his disapproval numbers, you might think he is not getting away with it: 34% approve and 61% disapprove of him. However, Clinton’s are almost as bad: 39% approve of her candidacy and 55% disapprove. Although Clinton has a clear lead at this time, the outcome of the election is still in doubt.

There is no doubt that Trump has a passionate partisan following that is willing to overlook his faults or put them into some context where they are perceived to support their world view.

This is no accident. In addition to his narcissism, Trump has a sociopathic personality disorder. This means that he is skilled in manipulating others without regard to the consequences. He feels no guilt or shame in tricking people. In fact, he delights in it and brags about it.

Let’s put aside psychological diagnosis and just call this “mind-fucking.” By this I meant Trump is highly skilled in getting people to believe what he wants them to believe irrespective of evidence, facts, or common sense.

In Trump’s ghost written book The Art of the Deal, it reads in part: “I play to people’s fantasies… People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

At one point in his campaign, Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Part of Trump’s self-promotion motivation for running for president is to further his acting ambitions. Trump is an actor always playing himself. Thus his campaign is to a large extent performance art. It’s the performance art of mind-fuckery.

The smug looks of self-satisfaction he always seem to have shows us how much he loves playing this game. He’s assuring himself a privileged place in the Mind-Fuckers Hall of Fame.

We can easily envision him recruiting ghost writers for his next best sellers: The Art of the Insult and A Primer on Politically Incorrect Speech: How to Get Away with Saying Absolutely Anything.

Trump is running his campaign on the model of a reality TV show. Success is measured in terms of ratings. The more attention you get the better, even if it is attention for deplorable things you say or do.

From this model it’s possible to run an entire political operation without the usual encumbrances of a traditional campaign. You don’t need to run very many ads, you don’t need a big staff, you don’t need record breaking amounts of money, you don’t need to depend on super PACS, and you can be very selective about where you do campaign appearances and who you talk to.

However, it’s imperative to dominate the news cycles as much as you can. So Trump has to keep making outrageous statements so the media will keeps their focus on him and relatively ignore the Democratic candidate.

Especially when he is ad libbing as opposed to reading off a teleprompter, Trump’s speaking style is usually an attempt to arouse an emotional reaction in his audience rather than to convey a substantive point. At the same time, he is trying to influence you with respect to what he wants you to believe.

Trump tries to steer away from definite policy statements whenever he can. “My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care,” he said in a Time Magazine interview.

The emotional content of his speech activates the sympathetic nervous system and so the higher brain centers are not as fully engaged. Then he can convey messages directly to the unconscious.

A full inventory of Trump’s mind-fucking tricks would require another book and this time it would a text on critical thinking. Some examples will have to suffice.

Speaking of the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s picks for the Supreme Court, he said, “If she gets to pick her judges—nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

This comes pretty close to advocating violence. Note though that Trump is not stating directly that people should take up weapons to overturn the results of the election. He’s just referring to it as something that might happen.

He puts it into the space and then he backs off from it by saying, “I don’t know.” Thus he avoids responsibility for what he just put out that may motivate crazy people to do violent things.

Trump often uses this insinuation trick to bring up topics which are too incendiary to be stated in a straightforward way when he wants to convey suspicion without evidence, proof, or facts.

He will say for example, “something is going on,” or “people are saying.” But he never tells you what he thinks is going on or what people he’s talking about. This gives the imagination of the listener an opportunity to create their own dark scenarios. He is encouraging a conspiracy mind set where the government and media are seen as being totally corrupt.

In another case Trump said, “And, by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

The crowd roars approval and overlooks the fact that Trump is advocating that we should go to war over a gesture. The message conveyed is how tough Trump will be as president and how nobody will be able to get away with insulting the United States again.

When Trump was confronted with the patent falsehood of his statement that “Obama founded ISIS,” he said he was just being sarcastic. It’s like saying, it’s just a joke. But he later said, “Obviously I’m being sarcastic. Then — but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”

In this case, he is trying to evade responsibility for his statement while at the same time reassuring his base that he really meant it.

This is typical of Trump’s modus operandi. He’s constantly changing what his positions are to avoid criticism.

This is another mind-fucking trick. Keep people in the dark about what you really mean and where you really stand while at the same time communicating to your base through these insinuations and innuendoes that he’s still going to be the hard line president he promised to be when he made the most outrageous claims.

He wants more moderate voters to hear that he has backed off of some of his most extreme statements while at the same time sending reassurances to his hard core right wing supporters.

Trump would like us to believe that America is falling apart and headed for disaster at every turn and only he can save us. You just have to trust him to be the strong leader we need in a time of increasing chaos and disorder.

For example in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention he said, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

I think his sociopathic tendencies show here because he seems to be saying that it takes a corrupt person to fix a corrupt system. In any case, even if he did understand the corruption better than anyone, it doesn’t follow that he has the remedies to fix the system or that he is the only one who does.

Trump, the president candidate, is a fictional character that Trump the actor created in an attempt to mythologize himself into someone supremely competent and intelligent who can effect immediate change through the force of his will. Trump touts himself as someone who always gets his way.

If we look at Trump’s real life, of course, this is far from true. He has had four business bankruptcies and two divorces to name just a few of Trump’s less than all powerful outcomes. However, his character, the person he played on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice, always wins.

Although Trump the candidate is a fiction, some people buy into the mythological persona he promotes. Ann Coulter, for example, wrote a book entitled In Trump We Trust. I think she must be thinking that demagogue means demigod.

Jon Voight, the actor, compared Trump to Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer. He was being completely sincere in saying this.

The world view that seems to motivate Trump’s political ambitions comes from the extreme fringe of the right wing of the political spectrum. He espouses the politics of the alt-right.

The alt-right is a political movement that supports white identity politics. They take Trump’s signature line “Make America Great Again” to mean “Make America White Again.”

Alt-right is the home base of angry and fear based white men who feel like their identity is being threatened by the changes that are happening in our society.

They are a diversity phobic group that includes elements which are overtly racist, anti-feminist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant. They share Donald’s vision of a Crippled America (the title of Trump’s book), and they look to radically change society to expunge the perceived toxic elements of multiculturism.

We know that Trump is aligned with the alt-right because he’s taken on Steven Bannon as the chief executive of his campaign. Bannon is the executive chairman of a web-site called Breitbart News. Bannon says this is a platform for the alt-right.

Here are some of the recent headlines of Breitbart News. “Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield.” “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” “The Solution to Online Harassment is Simple: Women Should Log Off.”

Clinton said that half of Trump’s supporters are “deplorables” and this is the group she is talking about. The alt-right is now taking on this ascription so they can be proud and unapologetic deplorables, meaning that their vision of how society should be is indeed radically different from the mainstream.

However, these extreme right wing people cannot be the entirety of Trump’s support. Clinton pegging them as about half is probably right. The election would not be close if these were the only supporters he had.

Trump’s candidacy resonates with a larger group of disaffected people who are sympathetic to some degree with his campaign.

The Trump phenomenon is rooted in choices people make about how to make sense of the changes that are happening in our society.

There is a sense of disturbance in our collective consciousness because we know that our future is not going to be like our past. Basic questions of existence can then come up. These are issues of identity about who we are, where we fit in, and what is worth doing.

This sense of existential crisis can manifest as a mood I called existential intensity. Then you experience excitement, anticipation, the sense of it being a meaningful time coupled with uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension.

Some of us are able to embrace change and, when we do, we’re more likely to experience a skew towards the more positive emotions of excitement, anticipation and meaning. But, if we have a mind-set that resists change and see it in a negative perspective as a catastrophic loss of the familiar, then uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension will be prominent.

The Chinese symbol for crisis illustrates this duality well as it’s made up of the characters for opportunity and danger.

Many of the really big challenges we face at this time in our civilization are global in nature. But often people lack the ability to see things in a bigger framework of meaning beyond their own immediate concerns.

The temptation is to focus attention on some outside group that can be seen as the problem. Fear and anger towards something definite is preferable to a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about a future that may seem beyond our control. A fortress mentality can develop that wants to wall off the local identity group from the problems happening in the world at large.

If external threats can be identified, there is a sense of relief in having something to project your negative emotions upon. This takes the focus away from any need for self-examination or change. Whatever is unfamiliar can be made into the enemy.

You can blame the designated others for whatever struggles you are having in your life or that you anticipate for the future. The focus goes to attempting to restore the past when diversities had less prominence and little or no power. Thus we get to “Make America Great Again.”

This reactionary political element will still be with us if Trump loses in November. However, it’s unlikely that another figure will be able to embody it as effectively as Trump has been doing in this election cycle.

Because the ideological balance of the Supreme Court is at stake, many Republicans are choosing party over country and supporting Trump even though they are repelled by his political affiliations.

So even though Trump has turned off many Republicans, he still has the support of the Republican Party. As the party hasn’t disowned him, this means he’s going to get a lot of partisan Republican votes and so he will win almost all of the red states.

There are several other factors that are keeping Trump afloat in spite of his repugnant politics.

Because the word “trump” has the connotation of being a decisive, overriding factor, this supports the mythology of his cult of personality.

Like most sociopaths, Trump can be very charming and engaging. He’s so good at being bad that we are captivated by what he’s going to say next. It’s like looking forward to the next chapter in a compelling novel to see what the character is going to do. Trump keeps us focused on him with his daily outrage.

We tend to like whatever is familiar to us and Trump is a genius at gaining attention. Clinton is also a celebrity, of course. She was well liked when she was in a prominent position as first lady and Secretary of State and in the news frequently. But she has been out of the news and thus outside of our attention for much of the election cycle. She just cannot compete with Trump in showmanship.

Because Trump is a celebrity and an actor, we tend to not hold him accountable to usual moral standards. The personae of actors are fictions. Actors are just who we want them to be. They are projections of our imagination and there is willful suspension of disbelief that they could be in any way dishonorable.

Thus O.J. Simpson was acquitted in his murder trial in spite of strong DNA evidence and his flight from the police.

Trump also has the novelty factor going for him. For sure, if we elect him, the established political order will not be the same. His way of trying to capitalize on this is to say, “What the hell do you have to lose?” I’m looking for the “What the Hell” placards to appear at Trump rallies. But, I guess we won’t see these because his rallies are made up almost entirely of partisans and not people on the fence.

Because Clinton is a woman running for president, sexism becomes an issue in the campaign. The same angry and fearful white men who feel threatened by change also feel threatened by having a woman in charge of the country.

Throughout history, women with political ambitions have been considered a threat to the hegemony of male domination. Just as the election of President Obama brought racism into the political conversation, the prospect of a woman president does the same for sexism. The prospect of change brings about a backlash to change.

Lastly, Clinton has weaknesses as a candidate. She has not succeeded to date in putting forward a compelling narrative of how electing her will make a positive difference.

If the Democrats can survive this election, then the progressive and liberal momentum in our society can move forward and our country can manifest much more of its great potential. Demographic changes are on the side of the Democrats, and it’s unclear how Republicans will be able to successfully reinvent themselves after a Trump loss.

If Trump wins, then we’re thrust in an Orwellian dystopia that will make the novel 1984 seem understated by comparison.

My forecast is that Clinton will win the election in spite of the factors mentioned above. The antiquated Electoral College system heavily favors Democrats since the biggest concentration of population in our country is on the coasts where the Democrats have mostly solid blue states.

Clinton only needs a handful of swing states to win but Trump needs them all.

Clinton’s best poll numbers happened right after the two conventions when people could compare the two campaigns one right after the other. Trump numbers crept up steadily later when Clinton was not much in the public eye and getting bad press about issues like email and having pneumonia.

When you put them on the stage together for a political debate, it’s going to be hard for Trump to play his usual games. The focus will be on policies and, in that respect, Trump is all hat and no cattle.

Trump’s admission that Obama was born in the United States was the single most damaging day in his entire political career. Now the focus shifts to Trump’s lies and his persona is cracked.

This is the high point of his political ascendancy. His poll numbers are going to go steadily down from this moment forward. The truth about Trump is going to bleed through the hype and, although his partisans will be unswayed, the independent voters will take notice.

It’s easy to imagine scenarios that skew the outcome in Trump’s favor like unexpected world events. However, I don’t see anything coming into play before the election. The October surprise will be that Trump won’t show up for all of the debates.

Now more than ever politics matters.

Our society has been traumatized by police killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near St. Paul, Minnesota and by a shooting rampage in Dallas that killed 5 and wounded 9 others. Hundreds have been arrested in protests that followed the police killings and several police officers have been hurt when objects were thrown at them.

The first incident happened on July 5 in Baton Rouge. Two white police officers were videoed shooting Alton Sterling, a black man, several times at point blank range after he had been tackled by officers.

In Minnesota, on July 6, a Latino police officer fatally shot Philando Castile, also black, multiple times during a traffic stop.

On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson, shot fourteen people from a sniper position. Two were civilians and 12 officers. 4 Dallas Police Department officers died as well as and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer.

Johnson, who is black, said he wanted to kill white people and especially police officers in response to the police killings of the previous two days. After a standoff, he was killed by an explosive charge delivered by a robot.

Further investigation revealed that he had been training and making preparations for a mass killing for a long time and had been influenced by black militant groups although he disavowed membership in any organization or group.

Although we may feel powerless in the face of these tragedies that come one right after the other, we always have a measure of freedom with respect to choosing our attitude, intention, and behavior with respect to these events.

I want to argue that how we respond to these searing moments of societal discord makes all the difference in how the future will unfold for us as a society and as a civilization.

It is apparent that in our country, and to a lesser and greater degree throughout the world, we are facing unprecedented challenges and that people have responded to this constellation with fear, upset, anger, and distrust of government and authorities of all stripes.

Although this crisis of disaffection and discontent that we face has many roots, one key element is the pace of change happening around us. The comfort zone of what is familiar is being obliterated at a frightening pace. We can’t count on the future being like the past and so we are unable to predict with any confidence what is going to happen even months ahead.

As Yogi Berra might have said: “It’s hard to predict the future because it hasn’t happened yet.”

As individuals, when we face uncertainty, our unconscious minds often generate worst case scenarios as a kind of preparation where the unknown means disaster. This survival motivated fear may have served us well in our earlier history as a species but it is still with us today. So the uncertainty of the challenges we face creates a collective sense of anxiety and fear that is part of the background mood of our world.

The unhappiness we feel is proportional to the discrepancy between our reality and our expectations based on what we know to be possible.

With our amazing technology we should be able to create a world where everyone has all of their basic needs met, where there is universal health care, access to higher education and an opportunity to pursue our life dreams without having to indenture ourselves to jobs that are not fulfilling just to avoid falling completely through the cracks of economic necessity.

We’re living in a time of increasing economic disparity between the richest and the rest of us to a degree that has not happened in our country since just before the Great Depression.

Minority groups and especially the black community are also subjected to racial disparity in law enforcement. The Black Lives Matter movement is a Civil Right Movement that has the aim of moving towards justice on these issues.

The racial tensions that have come into play in this latest spate of violence are important issues and they rest on top of other stresses in our society.

Both black and white have died in this recent outbreak and this underscores the common cause that we need to rally around in order to have a just and safe society that works for everyone.

The unhappiness that we feel about our society generates an undertow of negativity. If we internalize this, we feel guilt and shame. If it gets externalized, then it goes to blame. In blaming we are vulnerable to projecting our personal shadows onto some other group we identify as different from ourselves. Blame can easily morph into hate and hate can lead to moral insanity.

Micah Johnson is the very archetype of moral insanity where someone engages in horrific acts that, although not psychotic per se, yet take humans into a dark abyss of empathic blindness and moral insensitivity.

We hope that Johnson is some rare aberration of human nature. Yet we are all subject to temporary moral insanity ourselves. In our rush to express ourselves, we can totally lose sight of the impact we have on others.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has legitimate grievances that need to be expressed and peaceful protest can be one avenue. Yet they and any other protest oriented group needs to be wary of going to a place where they hate the haters and act out this hate. Hate is an equal opportunity employer.

There was a protest by two white supremacist groups in Sacramento, California on June 26. A left-wing counter protest was organized against them and a riot ensued. Ten people were hospitalized. The supremacist groups were the Traditional Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads and the left-wing groups were ANTIFA (Anti-Fascist Action) Sacramento and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary).

I imagine we’ll see protests against Donald Trump in the coming campaign season and there may well be more violence there.

Hopelessness and despair about our society are our true adversaries. From the perspective that nothing we do is going to make any difference anyway, there may be motivation to burn down everything in sight since at least we could gain the secondary benefit of emotional release and getting our aggressions out.

The way forward for our civilization is evolution not revolution. Evolution is already happening on a daily basis and the progress we’ve made is truly stunning in just the last few years.

The cold war is over, there is no longer any prospect of war between big nation states, apartheid has ended in South Africa, there is peace in Northern Ireland, we’ve elected and re-elected a black president, we opened the military to both gays and transgender people, gay marriage is the law in every state, and we’ll soon have our first female president.

Because of our communication technologies, whatever injustice happens in our country and the world is rapidly transmitted in often graphic image form for all to see. Whether we like it or not, we’re all part of an increasing integrated global society.

What we do in one part of our country quickly affects everyone everywhere. This gives us the opportunity to grow our moral and spiritual intelligence through education, information, and example.

One down side is that news has become a big commercial entertainment enterprise and we’re subjected to the emotional amplification of drama on a daily basis. We can’t escape knowing what is happening in the world for very long.

What we do with this information is key to whether or not our society will growth and reach its potential where everyone can thrive or whether we devolve into a failed civilization of ongoing dystopia.

It’s important for us to grieve and feel the pain of our loss when we hear of the shooting deaths like what we’ve been through in the first days of July. But then we need to dust ourselves off and refocus our attention and our action on what kind of world we want to have.

We could have mandatory police body cameras for example, universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and a reform of racially biased sentencing laws.

The Dallas Police Force, the target of Johnson’s moral insanity, had already instituted police reforms that dramatically reduced the number of complaints about police actions. This can happen in other cities.

Whatever positive thing we do, even the smallest act of kindness or consideration to another human, will move our society forward. We not a hopeless, broken, or defective civilization. We are just a rapidly evolving one. We need to keep the big picture in view even as we go through these breakdowns where what needs to be healed comes to our awareness.

It’s a big error in perspective to judge how viable and functional our society is on the actions of those living out the worst aspects of their human nature. Who we are as a people is a measure of how resilient we can be when we are forced to confront the darkest aspects of our potential.

Right now in our country, the forces that would embrace progressive change and those that want to regress to the past and arrest cultural transformation seem to be almost evenly balanced.

Every progressive movement is met with a regressive backlash that tries to reverse it. For example, President Obama’s health care initiative, which made health care available to millions of new people, was met with a fierce resistance and was partly the cause of big political losses in the House and Senate in the midterm elections for the Democratic Party.

The result is the movement towards a more just and equitable society where everyone can thrive is going to be a spiral progress with steps forward and then steps back or no steps at all for a while. In the long run though, the momentum towards a more progressive and just society cannot be stopped.

The reason for this is that our technologically enhanced world with its easily accessible communication resources means that people are growing in intellectual, spiritual, and moral intelligence. People are becoming more tolerant of diversity and less accepting of moral outrage and injustice.

It’s important to keep refocusing back to the kind of world we really want when the one that we currently have presents us with heartbreak and tragedy. Our perceived sense of reality turns out to be directly related to what we give our attention to.

We need to maintain a positive attitude about our society as it is to move it forward and resist the temptation to uncritically accept what the fear merchants are selling. Trump’s book Crippled America is one example of this.

If we take on the worst case scenarios about our country, then extreme measures seem appropriate. Then someone like Trump, the autocrat, or Bernie, the socialist, seems to be just who we need.

But we don’t need desperate measures to change our civilization. Change is on the way, in any case, and our role is to adapt to it one small step at a time and shape this change in a positive and progressive direction.

The trend towards economic globalization, for example, is not going to stop. Any country that resorts to isolationism will suffer immediate economic downturn as the British experienced after their vote to leave the European Union. They were the fifth largest economy in the world one day and sixth the day after the vote.

The most pressuring danger our civilization faces is in environment degradation through man-made driven climate change. However, we’re not going to be able to meet this challenge until we are able to address issues of political, economic, and social injustice. It’s hard to think globally when you are unhappy locally.

I’m hopeful we can mature as a species to where our sense of justice extends to empathy for the other living things on the earth and our effect on them. But it’s not a given that will happen.

We must do what we can to get our own house in order and move towards a more just society in our own country, and then our attention has a chance to focus on more global and environmental concerns.

In the last few days, we have faced tragedy as a nation. How will we respond? May this extremity be our opportunity to find unity and common purpose.

Just as every individual has the capacity for both love and violence, so every civilization has the potential to flourish and flower and reach its greater potential or just fall apart and disappear.

The events of June 12, 2016 leave us in a state of shock and grief. 49 died plus the shooter and 53 were injured in a hate crime and terrorist attack against a LGBTQ community.

As we struggle to make sense of these tragic events, we look for something positive that can yet emerge from this horror. What can we do to make a better world? How can this extremity be our opportunity?

We want to put our efforts into aligning ourselves with the evolving positive story of our society so that the worst case outcomes like Orlando can be averted. But what difference can one individual make? What difference can I make?

We change the world through one act of love and kindness at a time. Making the world a better place is an inside job. If we don’t do what we can to make a difference, then we have the world we deserve.

We need more than love and kindness. We also need acts of diversity and political sensitivity.

We will need collective as well as individual action. But what we do as individuals is the foundation of lasting and effective change. All the issues that we see in the world are reflections of what is happening within our own souls.

As we learn more about the shooter, Omar Mateen, the personal nature of the crisis of transformation in our civilization is underlined. It turns out that Mateen had been going to the Pulse nightclub for years, had a profile on gay dating apps, and had come on sexually to other men. He fit in somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.

It is reasonable to conclude that his murderous rampage was motivated by self-hatred and inability to accept the nonheterosexual aspects of his own personality. Although he claimed to be being inspired by ISIS, he also said he was seeking revenge for Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah elements. The latter are at war with ISIS.

My reading is that his self-declared terrorist mindset was a rationalization to act out homicidal and suicidal impulses that had been present for a long time.

Our opportunity in this terrible time comes when we can see how Omar, the mass murderer, is a reflection of ourselves. Granted, he is a worst case scenario of a negative role model. Yet, he is still human, and in his confusion, hostility, and desperation, we can see some resemblance to our own challenges.

To change the world through one act of love and kindness at a time, it is imperative that we also make ourselves the recipient of this grace. This is self-compassion.

My personal frontier of self-compassion is an ongoing exercise in self-forgiveness. Although I try to do the right thing and the loving and sensitive thing, I don’t always succeed. I have made spectacular mistakes in my life. Every one of them was a great learning. In reflection, I can see that I was in the perfect lesson.

The turning point is seeing my face plants as incidents where correction is needed, improvement is needed, growth is needed. And, not to hold the things I would do differently as evidence of how I am cracked at the core, defective, unworthy, and unlovable.

Everything I do is part of my path of personal and spiritual transformation, and I have to embrace the inevitable spiral nature of the progress that comes. Sometimes I have to go down before I can go up.

Diversity sensitivity is essential to living in a harmonious world and it applies to the self as well. I am identified with the parts of me that are competent and strong and other aspects where I am awkward and unskillful get put into the shadow and sometimes disowned. For example, I struggle to make a balance between my spiritual nature and the rest of me.

It’s difficult to be kind and loving towards others if you are desperately unhappy with yourself. A healthier, happier you creates a better world.

I find that if I hold to the intention to be a unified field that there is an opening to joy and celebration in my life. The input of my lower self is important because I often lose sight of what I need and want in my philosophical and spiritual preoccupations.

If I can hold a counsel with my inner child and other aspects of the lower self, they can school me in short order about where my bliss got lost and how it can be restored.

Political sensitivity is essential to moving ourselves and the world in a positive direction. Politics matters.

I will have more to say about the political implications of the Orlando massacre in the next blog.

But we can also look at political sensitivity as an individual responsibility. I see this as an obligation to reach discernment about what is credible, true, and real and what is not. Reality discernment is a political act. Our beliefs condition our perceptions which determine what we accept as reality. Then our choices flow from what we take to be real.

To move towards this better world that we all want, we have to learn to right size the fears that come along with our catastrophic age. Uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension are our companions in this 21st century experience because the future is no longer predictable based on past experience.

We all having some version of the Costco experience where what we shopped for last week has been moved to another part of the store and there is usually no one around to ask where our favorite item landed in this vast complex.

Fear and love are incompatible emotions. We need good strategies for fear management.

In this respect, what I have found helps me is to focus my attention on current challenges and not to try to anticipate the future too far in advance. I try to find the balance between being doing due diligence by anticipating my needs in the next moment and being fully in the present.

I can include the future present in this because it’s the very next thing that is coming up. But it’s important to avoid trying to solve future problems with current information when the actual challenges of that future won’t be known until we get there. It’s not helpful to look at the future from the standpoint of what we imagine these challenges to be.

Everything that we think, feel, and do affects everyone and this each-affects-all reality becomes more apparent with every passing day. As we learn to live with less fear and more love, we’re feeding the collective field good energies.

Let this tragic moment be the turning point in my life where I have more love and less fear.

Where love is, all is well and all will be well.

Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall.
Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men
Couldn’t put the GOP back together again.

We are living in very interesting times indeed. The question we need to wrestle with is whether this is really a curse as the traditional Chinese saying would have it or whether we are in fact in the perfect political lesson for our age.

The harsh facts are that Donald Trump has driven out all of his competitors and is now the last man standing in the Republican primary race of 2016. He will be the GOP nominee.

I don’t know of anyone who predicted that Trump would actually win the nomination. Both the scientific evidence based prognosticators like Nate Silver and more intuitive types like myself got it wrong. Moreover, we got it wrong more than once.

Trump was able to win the nomination by getting the support of just 40% of the Republican electorate. With sixteen other candidates competing for the nomination, the vote got split in all of the contests and the Trump faction emerged with a winning plurality.

The GOP establishment is partly to blame for how this election cycle unfolded. They changed the format of the primary elections for 2016 to give a front runner a better chance of winning the nomination quickly so they could pivot to the general election and not get bogged down in endless debates and contested primaries.

They saw in 2012 how candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum hung in the process much longer than they would have otherwise because they had the support of some rich patrons who could fund a super PAC for them.

With Trump now the standard bearer of the GOP, the ideological unity of the Republican Party has been shattered to pieces. Many prominent Republicans are now not only not endorsing Trump but actually disavowing him and saying they will not vote for him.

A new standard of political double speak is coming to prominence as Republican Senate candidates want to continue to be identified with the party but not the nominee. So Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she supports the nominee of the party but will not endorse him.

Various disaffected Republicans are trying to organize a third party candidate with the fantasy goal of forcing the election into the House of Representatives. But it’s going to be too little too late for a third party.

Moreover, no one really wants to take on the role of being a spoiler candidate just to spite someone else. There is no political integrity in that.

I imagine they are trying to create some incentive for unhappy Republicans to go to the polls in November in order to save the Senate from flipping to the Democrats. A write-in campaign will be their last resort.

According to the Pew Research Center, the Republican share of the electorate is 25%. 44% are independents and 31% Democrats. The best case scenario for the Republicans electorate is 41% counting all the Republicans plus those leading Republican. The leaning Democratic share is 49%.

Without a unified party, the Republicans don’t have much of a chance in the general election. They traditionally count on a unified Republican electorate plus appeal to independents and some Democrats.

The big lesson of the 2012 election for president for the Republicans was the need to expand their demographic appeal. With Trump as candidate, though, it goes in the other direction in a dramatic way.

With Clinton as the Democratic nominee, we could count on Trump doing his usual thing of denigration of the opposition through personal attacks. This is going to have a misogynistic slant to it. Already Trump has said that Clinton is playing the woman card and that’s all she has going for her.

The nonwhite vote in 2016 will make up about 31% of the electorate and Trump isn’t going to win a lot of these voters. Women make up 52% of the voters and, if he alienates them, he’s got absolutely no chance to win.

In the Republican primary contest, Trump excelled at demagoguery and reality TV type theatrics while avoiding talking about policy for the most part. That won’t fly in the general election. Here truly it will become clear to all that the emperor has no clothes. Trump has no coherent policies.

When Trump does put forward some policy, banning all Muslims from entering the country, for example, there are those who believe that this is all for show and that it’s just something he’s saying to get attention and keep himself in the media spotlight.

The reality, however, is that Trump lives from a world view dominated by conspiracy theories. The conspiracy media figure, Alex Jones, is his hero.

For example, this is his view of climate change: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

With such unprecedented liabilities, we need some explanation for how Trump got to be the representative of one of the two major political parties in our country with at least some possibility of being elected president.

Because of the rapid pace of change in many aspects of our lives, our country and the entire world is going through an existential crisis. It’s a crisis of identity, meaning and values.

The best response to existential crisis is to embrace change and transformation. The least function responses are to act out against others, against ourselves, and to go for restoration of some fantasized past. Trumpism embodies all three of these dysfunctional reactions to change.

The slogan “Make America Great Again” needs no explanation as a move towards restoration. The xenophobic and nativist strains of Trump’s politics focuses attention on who is perceived to be different and other and helps distract from having to take responsibility for adapting to change. We can then blame our problems on immigrants or the Chinese.

What we are seeing in the current version of the Republican Party is also an example of acting out against oneself. The corrupt and traditional ways of the Republican Party are then the problem. So the perception is that we need some anti-politician who can burn it down and build it back again in a better form.

The presidential election cycle of 2016 is a great opportunity to make a stand for a new way of being in our country and in the world. Trump’s candidacy serves us by bringing to full awareness the road we don’t want to walk down. He is the ultimate negative role model. It’s really a clash between two paradigms.

It’s a choice between a paradigm of tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and justice and a paradigm of white identity resentment politics of diversity insensitivity and intolerance.

On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. With U.S. involvement, it marked the day when Germany and Japan could no longer win the war.

In the aftermath of the December 2nd San Bernardino terrorist shootings that left 14 dead and 22 injured, on December 7, 2015, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

This statement ended whatever marginal chances Trump had to become the Republican nominee. It was his Pearl Harbor moment.

But, wait. Trump had said a lot of outrageous things in the past months and his polls numbers have just gone up.

True to form, Trump has enjoyed a poll surge which put him at an unprecedented 41% in one recent Monmouth pole.

Even though he is the clear front runner in the polls, his failure to win the nomination is assured.

My reading is that Trump’s inevitable fall will see Ted Cruz emerge as the GOP presidential candidate for 2016. I do not see anything that will reverse Ben Carson’s decline. Once you take Trump and Carson out of the picture, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are the strongest candidates left.

Of the top four candidates, Rubio is the one most favored by the Republican political establishment and the most electable versus Clinton. However, the perception that he is part of the establishment is a disadvantage in the current mood of the Republican electorate.

He offers no compelling narrative and is best known in the Senate for missing votes and being part of an effort to pass an immigration reform bill. Cruz helped write the legislation which included a provision that provided for a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.

Although he later repudiated his own bill, it has been difficult for him to distance himself from the perception that he is in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Whatever is thought to be amnesty is anathema to the Republican base.

Cruz is going to consolidate support after winning Iowa. Then he will have momentum and the push will be on to rally GOP support for the Anyone-But-Trump candidate. Trump is not going to disappear. He will win his share of the primary vote but he will not get to 50% in the delegate count.

Were Trump to win and become the new face of the Republican brand, not only would the Republicans suffer a tremendous defeat in the presidential election, they would also be in big trouble in the Senate and House races.

They cannot win the presidency with Cruz either, but at least they have a better shot in the Senate and the House.

Cruz is very much the social conservative that Trump is not and that will be a disadvantage in the general election. Moreover, he is every bit as hawkish on the war with ISIS. In a foreign policy address Cruz said this: “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark but we are going to find out.”

This seems to advocates a bombing campaign which makes no effort to avoid civilian deaths and also implies the use of nuclear weapons. Cruz’s militarism is then another aspect which makes him less appealing to the general electorate.

Ted Cruz can muster a coalition of older white Christians in the general election but that is not going to take him to 270 electoral votes.

What then makes Cruz an acceptable candidate for the GOP and Trump an unacceptable one?

What Trump has proposed is government sanctioned religious profiling. If there is any one principle which is sacred in American democracy, it is the principle of religious liberty. Disregarding this value is an emotionally activating element that resonates across the whole political spectrum.

In response to Trump’s call, former Vice-President Dick Cheney said this: “I think this whole notion that somehow we can say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

Moreover, Trump’s call to ban Muslims feeds directly into what ISIS is trying to promote, a narrative of Islam versus the West. He is putting us at greater risk and making the terrorism threat worse. He has become a great recruiting asset for ISIS.

Trump has doubled down on his anti-Muslim stance by calling for killing the families of terrorists. This puts him on the same moral footing as the terrorists.

It is inconceivable how we can make any progress at all in dealing with the complex challenges of the Middle East with a president who is perceived to be as anti-Muslim as Trump is perceived to be. He would be an unprecedented disaster for U.S. foreign policy.

Trump’s call on a ban on Muslims is clearly unconstitutional, impractical, bigoted, and discriminatory. Unless you take into account the reality show attention getting rhetorical intent, it would seem to be a political absurdity.

When someone’s line of reasoning ends up in an absurd conclusion, this focuses attention on the premises that lead to the unacceptable end. When you start looking critically at the basis for his comments, his standing as a serious candidate quickly degrades.

For example, one stable of Trump’s campaign is his argument that what is holding us back from achieving our national goals is political correctness. He is then an advocate of the virtue of political incorrectness.

What he is really saying is that we should be more fearful and suspicious of our neighbors, less tolerant of anyone who opinion is different from ours, and erect literal and administrative walls to keep out foreigners of all kinds.

The term “politically correct” has been co-opted by conservative think tanks to be a weapon in the culture wars as conservatives try to resist the liberalization of American and world culture.

In one of its original meanings, it referred to the attempt to enforce ideological orthodoxy among Marxists. It was used as an admonishment for anyone who had any idea which was thought to deviate from the official party line as in “you’re not being very politically correct here, comrade.”

Today the term “politically incorrect” has taken on the meaning of saying or doing something that is offensive to an ethnic or demographic group. Racist, sexist and homophobic comments would all apply here.

The advocates of politically incorrectness would like us to believe that they are champions of radical honesty and truth speaking because they say what other are thinking but are afraid to say. If people feelings are hurt, it is not their problem.

However, this ignores the power that language has to be an instrument of domination and disempowerment. The person who deliberately uses politically incorrect speech is trying to create some kind of power differential when they are one up and the other is one down.

One example of such speech I recall from my days growing up in Southwest Virginia was the term “poor white trash.” This term was used as a way to marginalize and basically dehumanize financially disadvantaged white people. It was a way of speaking that makes you feel superior to others and justifies any sort of injustice you might want to inflict on them.

It is a short step from the advocacy of politically incorrectness to bigotry, xenophobia, and discrimination.

It is time to retire the term “political correctness” and find an alternative which can avoid the connotation that the focus on treating people with dignity, respect, fairness, and justice needs some kind of corrective to avoid infringing individual freedom and liberty. I recommend the term “diversity sensitivity.”

When you use a slur against any ethic or demographic group, it is not ignoring some arbitrary and artificial standard of politeness or etiquette. It is showing insensitivity to a group of people that you perceive to be different than yourself. When we consider people from understanding and tolerance, then we are also much more likely to treat them with fairness and justice as well.

Trump, Carson and Rubio all spoke about the dangers of political correctness in the last GOP debate. In fairness to them, they are not advocating the use of racist, sexist or homophobic slurs as we normally encounter them. However, the term “radical Islamic terrorism” that Cruz says we should use is a diversity insensitive term.

It is insensitive because it blurs the distinction between Islam and terrorism. It fuels Islamophobia.

Should we call Dylann Roof’s murder of 9 people at a Charleston, South Carolina Church with the intent to create a race war “white Christian terrorism” or Robert Dear’s killing of 3 people at Planned Parenthood? Christianity does not advocate violence you might say. Although the Ku Klux Klan members are all Christians, the Ku Klux Klan is not Christianity. So too, ISIS is not Islam.

When I say that the premises behind Trump’s outrageous statements do not stand up to any sort of critical inquiry, by no stretch of the imagination am I claiming that his current sizeable plurality of followers in the GOP are critical thinkers that are going to be swayed by rational arguments or even common sense.

Trump’s followers have a kind of cult mentality. They may rationalize their support by saying such things as Trump is not corruptible because he does not need any one else’s money to run for office, or that Trump is the strong, tough guy we need to restore America’s respect in the world. It is clear though that Trump’s appeal is emotional rather than rational.

He is the master demagogue using various rhetorical devices to appeal as directly as possible to the emotions, especially to the fear and anger of his base. His positions are all provocations of one kind or another and the reasons he gives for them are often based on distortions and outrageous lies.

Trump’s candidacy is a vehicle for the expression of the rage and frustration that the GOP electorate feels with respect to what they perceive is happening in the country, what is happening in the government, and what is happening in their own party.

But this does not mean that, at the end of the day, at the July GOP Convention, the majority of delegates are going to happily jump aboard what is in effect the GOP suicide Trump bandwagon.

We may think that we live in a world where people live in their own isolated reality bubbles so that what is true in general never filters through to the public at large. But people do not have to think and reflect in order to be influenced by a consensus that comes through the collective field.

So the growing awareness of the true nature of the lies, distortions and provocations that are the basis of Trump’s campaign will in the long run keep him from the nomination. He will not get more than 30% of the vote.

Popularity in the polls does not translate neatly into delegates for the convention. Many of Trump’s supporters, in particular the blue collar, less educated group, do not have a history of voting in Republican primaries. His outrageous positions mean that he is not going to get endorsements from any other political figures. He will get zero support from established Republicans.

Lastly, Trump is not the leader of a group of dedicated and committed political professionals. He is a one man band. His circle of closest advisors are all pretty much all within his own head. He does not have the organization to make a go of a long campaign.

Nor, in my reading, does he have the will or the stamina to work hard enough to achieve the goal. What has happens so far fits neatly within his larger purpose to garner attention to his brand and enjoy free media attention.

He is loath to spend his own fortune on campaign ads and he eschews super PACs. It is fun for him as long as he does not have to work too hard at it and it does not take away too much attention from his other interests.

He is ambivalent about being president because it is very hard for him to conceive of not having direct control of his business interests which he would have to do if elected.

More high profile domestic terrorist attacks between now and the GOP convention might change what I see to be the trajectory of history. But, my reading is that we are not going to have any attacks like San Bernardino where more than 10 people are killed between now and the election next November.

The Trump phenomenon helps put the focus on what needs to be healed in American politics and throughout the world. This is ethnic identity politics that see diversity insensitivity as a virtue.

If we are going to survive the adolescence of our species, we need to understand that our welfare and well-being is tied up with the welfare and well-being of all other people on earth. Unless we are committed to a world in which everyone thrives, we are going to be working against our own long term interests.

On Friday, November 13th, 2015, there were six separate coordinated attacks in Paris by three teams of terrorists wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles. So far 130 people have died from the attacks and 351 more were injured. 7 of the attackers died in the assault.

On November 18th, more members of the terrorist cell were cornered in an apartment building in a Paris suburb. 8 were captured and three were killed including the person who was believed to be the organizer and leader of the group, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud fought with ISIS in Syria before returning to France.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack as well as two other mass casualty terrorism incidents that happened around the same time as the Paris attacks. Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed into the Sinai Peninsula on October 31 from a bomb that had been smuggled on board. 217 passengers and 7 crew members died.

Two suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon on November 12th. A Shia neighborhood was targeted. 239 more were injured.

It would seem that ISIS is implementing a strategy of dramatically increasing the impact they can make with a campaign of international terrorism.

Will they come here next? Is it really safe to allow Syrian refugees to come to this country? What additional steps will the threatened nations of the world take to counter the threat of ISIS?

These terrorism incidents have sent a shock wave around the globe. Our postmodern world with its evolving communication technology is fast becoming one unified field where anything that happens anywhere affects everyone everywhere. There is now a lot of fear in this space.

To the extent that we want to be part of a spiritually intelligent response to this crisis, it’s incumbent upon us to see if we can discern the difference between irrational fear and the realistic threats we face.

This is something that all of us have to deal with on an individual basis in our personal lives in any case. An increase in uncertainty is our modern experience.

With increased uncertainty, the unconscious will often generate fear scenarios of worst case possibilities. Then what’s remotely possible seems like an actual threat we have to guard against. Without a realistic threat assessment, we run the risk of taking actions which actually make us less safe.

Obama has proposed taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees. To be accepted into the United States, each one of these individuals will have to undergo a vetting process that takes 18 to 24 months to complete.

It’s unreasonable to assume that violent militants are going to use this route to get into the United States that involves a close scrutiny by government officials when they have other easier ways to get into the country such as student visas or coming as tourists with European passports.

Moreover, there is almost no evidence of a refugee terrorist connection. According to the Migration Policy Institute of Washington, since 9/11 there have been 784,000 refugees admitted into the United States. Only 3 have been arrested for terrorism related charges.

The House just voted on a bill that would make it practically impossible for Syrian refugees to come here. A better idea being considered is to limit visas for anyone who has traveled to Syria or Iraq within five years.

There is currently no law which restricts people on a terrorism watch list from buying guns.

If we turn away the refugees, we’ll be repeating a regrettable chapter from our past when the United States turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939 because of fear that they would be Communists.

The irrational refugee phobia plays right into the ISIS ideological narrative of a war between Muslims and everyone else.

If by a mass casualty event we mean one which results in 100 total casualties or more, my intuitive reading is that we’re not going to see a mass casualty event in the United States any time soon, for at least ten years or more.

We don’t have the open border policy that Europe has that makes it easy to go from one country in Europe to another without having to stop at a border control check point. We haven’t had that many people go from the United States to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS that could return from the war there to harm us.

Currently, in our own country, our security forces have the upper hand on anyone who wants to plan a sophisticated attack.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be low casualty attacks by single individuals. We’ve had these before and we’ll have them again. But, my reading is that we won’t see anything on the scale of 9/11.

My intuition is that the ISIS group is taking on this new strategy because they are desperate. They want to provoke the West into overreacting and sending large numbers of European and American combat troops into Iraq and Syria. This sets the stage for the final battle between their perverted version of Islam and the West that is part of their apocalyptic fantasy.

They hope this will spur an influx of people to their cause.

They are running out of resources relative to their vision of what want to accomplish in establishing their caliphate. They’ve used up the money they looted from Iraq banks in the cities they took over, they’re running out of antiquities to sell, their oil production industry is being systematically destroyed, and they are in danger of running out of soldiers.

They count on recruitment from foreign countries to maintain the numbers to sustain the fiction of being a conquering army and to administer the areas they currently control.

Isis’s new strategy of international terrorism though is going to blow up in their faces. Europe is going to be safer now that France has had its 9/11 just as the United States is safer from terrorism after ours.

Russia and the United States along with other states are working together on a diplomatic initiative to end the Syrian Civil War. This will mean kicking Assad to the curb. Then every nation with a stake in Syria can fight ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Now there is a new movement of cooperation between nations to counter the ISIS threat. France has invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter that requires every nation in NATO to help when one is attacked.

I don’t see recent events leading to a ground force of NATO and American troops in large numbers. There will be an intensification of the current efforts against ISIS and most of these will not be very visible or dramatic. But, in the long run, it will be effective, and ISIS, at least as a caliphate holding large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq, will cease to exist.

Assuming that an end to the Syrian Civil War can be achieved and there is no commitment of large numbers of Western ground forces, an effective war of attrition against ISIS can be sustained. My reading is that the demise of ISIS as a geographic entity will take about three years from the present time.

It’s important to counter ISIS militarily. If we make them look like losers on the battlefield, the aura of being an effective Muslim fighting force will fade away and their recruitment of foreign fighters will not be able to keep pace with their battlefield losses.

But military solutions are never going to be enough to defeat the appeal of their ideology. To reach this goal, we are going to need to continue to use the restraint we have in military operations that try to limit civilian causalities. It will be counterproductive to think that going to more total war will make us safer in the long run.

Terrorism and religious extremism is going to be with us for decades to come because it’s a dysfunctional reaction to the increasing rate of change in our civilization and the stress this puts on our institutions and on our habitual way of life.

The only long term solution to the problem of terrorism is to create a more just world where people feel empowered and where they feel they have a chance for a better life without having to burn down the neighborhood.

One thing you and I can do to move us towards this post terrorism future is to watch what we’re feeding the unified field of the world. When we feel fear about anything, question that emotion.

We need to ask ourselves is there a real threat here? What is the most intelligent response I can make to this disturbance I’m currently experiencing? Is there a deeper concern that I need to look at that the activating event has stimulated within me?

When you come from a place of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance of yourself and others, you’re putting good medicine into the field. Whatever we can do to heal ourselves will help heal the world.

At approximately 1.24 pm on Saturday, September 12, a fire started in a shed near a rural home in Cobb. Fed by very high winds and high temperatures, the fire raged out of control. By 6.30 pm, it had scorched 10,000 acres. By Sunday 50,000 acres were burned. By the 23nd of September, the fire had burned over 76,000 acres and was still only 80% contained.

Approximately 1900 structures have been destroyed by the latest count. This makes the Valley Fire the third worse fire in California history as measured by the total number of structures lost.

Almost all of the buildings at the Harbin Hot Springs Resort were reduced to rubble. A couple of dome structures on the top of the hill survived as did some bathrooms that had metal roofs.

The people at Harbin and the people in the surroundings communities had very little time to evacuate so many people lost almost all of their possessions along with their homes and immediate livelihoods. Fortunately, only 4 deaths have been attributed to the fire so far.

Since I have been going to the workshops of the Human Awareness Institute at Harbin Hot Springs for 31 years, I know many of the people affected by the fire who worked there or lived nearby.

The Stan Dale Conference Center that was the Northern California home venue for the HAI workshops for all these years is completely destroyed.

How can we deal with such loss and maintain our emotional center?

I think the most important thing is not to obsessively focus on loss as loss but to pivot our attention as soon as we can to what we want to create from this point forward.

It’s important to allow ourselves to grieve and feel the sadness. But then celebrate life. Choose love, choose empowerment.

I find empowerment in the circumstances of my life by taking on the premise that I’m always in the perfect lesson. When I’m caught up in an unfortunate and unwelcome situation, I look for lessons and I always find them.

The first lesson I find in the pain of the Valley Fire is a new understanding of the Buddhist teaching that all form is ephemeral and impermanent. Everything that is structure is in the process of change and evolution. We’re caught up in cycles of creation and destruction. This, of course, includes our physical bodies as well.

I’m reminded of the importance of appreciating and celebrating the things I love and what I love to do while they are still available to me. The time to express and cherish what I’m passionate about is now, not some time in the future that I think is more convenient.

Although the buildings of the Harbin Hot Springs Resort are gone, Harbin has not been destroyed. The springs have not gone away, nor have the pools that contained the water. The destruction of the infrastructure of Harbin Hot Springs is also ephemeral and impermanent.

As Stan Dale was fond of saying: “All endings automatically equal new beginnings.” The end of Harbin as we knew it is the beginning of a new Harbin that will be rise up from the ashes of the old.

My forecast is that Harbin will be fully open for business by January, 2017. It will take more time to replace all the buildings destroyed, but there is also the opportunity to redesign Harbin from the ground up.

If you feel like you’ve lost your personal sanctuary, at least for the time being, this opens up a possibility to find other sanctuaries.

The second lesson that I take from the Valley Fire is about climate change. Destructive climate change is not something theoretical that may happen decades in the future. It’s here now. California has not been this dry in 500 years and human activity sourced climate change is to blame.

The empowerment I take from this perspective is a wake-up call to get my personal career act together so I can be more influential in spreading the awareness of our planetary peril.

We must do what we can to educate others who want to take refuge in climate change skepticism and denial. We’ve all got to do what we can to mobilize our civilization to take action before critical thresholds of climate change make our planet much less livable for ourselves and all other species.

The third lesson of the fire is about meaning. Form and structure is transitory but there is a sense in which meaning is always conserved. Sentient life is always evolving towards its higher possibility.

This means in practical terms that there is as much meaning after the catastrophe as there was before. We just have to search it out.

Harbin is never going to be same as it was nor are the lives of the people who were burned out of their homes or had their work lives drastically affected. But there is at least as much meaning available after this terrible and unfortunate event as there was before. The loss of what was before creates an opening for new meaning to manifest.

So a new Harbin Hot Springs Resort has the opportunity to redesign itself and correct some things that didn’t work in the old version. Individuals can rebuild homes or find new places to live. The sudden end of one work opportunity opens doors to new ones that may not have ever been considered before.

A less dramatic aspect of this same lesson comes into play whenever we lose something we really like or depend on. This forces us to find a replacement. More often than not, the thing we get to replace the old is an improvement in function or quality.

A fourth lesson is about service. There is a real opening here to improve the quality of your life by helping others who are in need. Embrace grief, celebrate life, choose love, choose empowerment.

If you know someone who was affected by the fire, reach out to that person and offer whatever help you can. Let them know that they are not alone. If you have the means, contribute to the funds for the survivors of the fire.