Is Pronoia Real and True?

Is it reasonable and practical to seek beauty and truth and justice and love?

If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.

—Sharon Salzberg

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IS PRONOIA STILL WORTH WIELDING?

In 2005, I published the first edition of my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings. In 2009, I published the revised and expanded edition, which has 55% additional new material beyond the first edition.

I am working on an ebook edition, which should be available in early 2022.

Here's my meditation:

Is pronoia still a philosophy worth wielding? Can we justify its continued viability in an age when bigoted authoritarianism has hijacked so many imaginations?

Does it make logical or soulful sense to embrace crafty optimism and radical hope now that the climate crisis has degenerated into the climate emergency?

Do we dare celebrate anything at all in the face of the teeming mobs that proudly proclaim their support for the ever-more bloated malfeasance of patriarchy and plutocracy and militarism and science-phobia?

As I have contemplated these questions, my mission has been to embody humble objectivity. In the spirit of curiosity and discernment, which guide my practice of pronoia, I didn't want to automatically assume that my previous ideals should be my future ideals.

I even considered the possibility that maybe I should abandon my ebullient quest to propagate beauty and truth and justice and love—and surrender to the seemingly reasonable mandate of cynicism.

One set of evidence that influenced my ruminations is the cascade of progressive advances that have blossomed alongside the deterioration. The joyous upgrades are too numerous to list in their entirety, but I'll name a few.

• Same-sex marriage is now widely supported. Discrimination against gay people has declined precipitously.

• Breakthrough improvements in welcoming broader definitions of gender identity are far from complete, but they have generated significant shifts.

• Young people are extraordinarily liberal and progressive, to a degree that surpasses all previous generations.

• The traditional family, with its rigid gender roles and retrograde values, is in steep decline.

• More than half of newborn babies in the US are racial or ethnic minorities, as are the majority of K-12 students in public schools. And minorities are progressives’ strongest constituency.

• The #MeToo movement has been highly effective in checking sexual abuse and harassment.

• A robust majority of Americans wants the government to guarantee healthcare, is in favor of making immigration easier, and believes discrimination against Black people is still a big problem. Two-thirds of Americans express some support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

• There are well over a million organizations engaged in a global crusade to improve social justice, economic conditions, human rights, and environmental health. It thrives without centralized leadership, charismatic front people, or a fixed ideology.

• Author and activist Rebecca Solnit, a savvy critic of our era's sickness, nonetheless exults in "the tremendous human rights achievements" that have burgeoned: "not only in gaining rights but in redefining race, gender, sexuality, embodiment, spirituality and the idea of the good life."

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For three weeks, I meditated daily on my questions about the ongoing usefulness of pronoia. I shed all my assumptions and theories so I could embody the innocence of beginner's mind.

Here's what I concluded. No matter what the state of the world might be, it's my pragmatic job and my soul task to perpetrate regeneration and awakening and inspiration and liberation.

Borrowing from Charles Dickens, I proclaim it to be irrelevant whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, the season of light or the season of darkness, the spring of hope or the winter of despair. My goals are the same in all cases.

And the truth is, I can't possibly know in any absolute way how terrible or wonderful the collective state of affairs is—not now, not 20 years or a thousand years ago, not ever. I'm not smart enough to accomplish that unachievable understanding. Nor can I ever gather sufficient information to do so.

I'll go further. None of us has the capacity to foretell the fate of the world. Not psychics, not economic forecasters, not doomsayers, not trend analysts, not interdisciplinary futurists, not indigenous shamans. No one!

A strong case can be made that in the next 100 years, everything will collapse into a miserable dystopia. A strong case can also be made that we are evolving, albeit with a bumpy rhythm, in the direction of paradise. And there is not a single genius anywhere on the planet who has the wisdom to formulate an incontrovertible prediction.

“Whether we are on the threshold of a Golden Age or on the brink of a global cataclysm that will extinguish our civilization is not only unknowable, but undecided,” said the founder of the World Future Society.

Anyone who asserts they do know is cherry-picking evidence that rationalizes their emotional bent. The variables are chaotic and abundant and beyond our ken.

In light of the fact that no one knows nuthin', the eminently practical and sensible approach is to do all we can to create a Golden Age—not just for ourselves, since that wouldn't be a real Golden Age— but for every human and every creature on earth.

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IS PRONOIA STILL WORTH WIELDING? Part Two

Now I'll bring in some helpers in to bolster and refine my thoughts.

First, here's one of my mentors, progressive historian Howard Zinn: "An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

"What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

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Here's another one of my politically progressive mentors, Noam Chomsky: "Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope."

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Here's one of my heroes, whom I cited earlier, Rebecca Solnit: "Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.

"Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal.

"To hope is to give yourself to the future—and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

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Another one of my heroes, author and activist Naomi Klein, tells a story about the time she traveled to Australia at the request of Aboriginal elders. They wanted her to know about their struggle to prevent white people from dumping radioactive wastes on their land.

Her hosts brought her to their beloved wilderness, where they camped under the stars. They showed her "secret sources of fresh water, plants used for bush medicines, hidden eucalyptus-lined rivers where the kangaroos come to drink."

After three days, Klein grew restless. When were they going to get down to business? "Before you can fight," she was told, "you have to know what you are fighting for."

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Poet W. S. Merwin: "On the last day of the world, I would want to plant a tree."

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Author and activist Helen Keller: "No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."

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Author Rachel Pollack: "We cannot predict the results of healing, either our own or the world around us. We need to act for the sake of a redemption that will be a mystery until it unfolds before us."

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Educator David L. Cooperrider: "Almost without exception, everything society has considered a social advance has been prefigured first in some utopian writing."

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Sociologist Fred Polak: "The rise and fall of images of the future precede or accompany the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society's image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, the culture does not long survive."

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Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

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Author and activist Rebecca Solnit again: "Hope locates itself in the premises that we don't know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.

"Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting.

"It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone."

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Author Agatha Christie: "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

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HEALING TRAUMA IS NOT JUST PERSONAL WORK

Kai Cheng Thom wrote all of the essay below: I think the major difference between a social justice and a white/colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety—that safety is a resource that is simply 'out there' for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy.

I was once at a training seminar in Toronto led by a famous & beloved somatic psychologist. She spoke brilliantly. I asked her how healing from trauma was possible for people for whom violence & danger are part of everyday life. She said it was not.

Colonial psychology & psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo in their approach to trauma: That resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society, when in fact society is the source of trauma

Colonial somatics & psychotherapies teach that the body must relearn to perceive safety. But the bodies of the oppressed are rightly interpreting danger. Our triggers & explosive rage, our dissociation & perfect submission are in fact skills that have kept us alive

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The somatics of social justice cannot (i believe) be a somatics rooted in the colonial frameworks of psychology, psychiatry, or other models linked to the dominance of the nation-state (psychology was not always this way, but has become increasingly so over time)

The somatics of social justice cannot be aimed at restoring the body to a state of homeostasis/neutrality. We must be careful of popular languaging such as the 'regulation' of nervous system & emotion, which implies the control and domination of mind over emotion & sensation.

Because we are not, in the end, preparing the body to 'return' to the general safety of society (this would be gaslighting). we are preparing the body, essentially for struggle—training for better survival & the ability to experience joy in the midst of great danger.

In the cauldron of social justice healing praxis, we must aim for relationality that has the potential to generate social change, to generate insurrection. we must be prepared to challenge norms. acknowledge danger. embrace struggle. take risks.

& above all, we must not overemphasize the importance of individual work (which is important indeed) to the detriment of a somatics that also prepares us, essentially, for war. somatics that allow us to organize together. fight together. live together. love each other.

—Kai Cheng Thom

Here's info about the author I've quoted here at length, Kai Cheng Thom.

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HOW DOES YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE SERVE THE EARTH?

How does my spiritual practice and daily life serve the earth? How does my spiritual practice and daily life affect the poorest third of humanity? How will my spiritual practice and daily life affect the generations to come in the future?

—Starhawk

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MORE PRONOIA RESOURCES:

Istanbul Improves the Lives of Thousands of Stray Cats with Elaborate Outdoor Cat Houses. https://tinyurl.com/2p998kyp

Walking Storyteller Continues Historic 24,000-Mile Trek Retracing Passage of Human Ancestors Out of Africa. https://tinyurl.com/m5fa9p2a

Destroyed by Fire, Drought, and Dust Storms, These Australian Marshes Needed Only Two Years to Completely. Recover. https://tinyurl.com/5fhac3pd

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For a lot more pronoiac resources and ideas, read my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

Available at Bookshop.org: https://tinyurl.com/548hp8y8

Available at Powells: https://bit.ly/PowellsPronoia

Available at Barnes & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/PronoiaBN

Available at Amazon: https://bit.ly/Pronoia

A free preview of the book is available here: https://tinyurl.com/PronoiaPreview

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Please tell me your own nominations for PRONOIA RESOURCES: Truthrooster@gmail.com.

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FREE WILL ASTROLOGY

Week beginning November 11

Copyright 2021 by Rob Brezsny

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Scorpio theologian Eugene Peterson cleared up a mystery about the nature of mystery. He wrote, "Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend." Yes! At least sometimes, mystery can be a cause for celebration, a delightful opening into a beautiful unknown that's pregnant with possibility. It may bring abundance, not frustration. It may be an inspiring riddle, not a debilitating doubt. Everything I just said is important for you to keep in mind right now.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): In 2017, Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize for Economics. His specialty: researching how unreasonable behavior affects the financial world. When he discovered that this great honor had been bestowed on him, he joked that he planned to spend the award money "as irrationally as possible." I propose we make him your role model for the near future, Sagittarius. Your irrational, nonrational, and trans-rational intuitions can fix distortions caused by the overly analytical and hyper-logical approaches of you and your allies.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): "Neurotic" and "neurosis" are old-fashioned words. Psychotherapists no longer use them in analyzing their patients. The terms are still useful, though, in my opinion. Most of us are at least partly neurotic—that is to say, we don't always adapt as well as we could to life's constantly changing circumstances. We find it challenging to outgrow our habitual patterns, and we fall short of fulfilling the magnificent destinies we're capable of. Author Kenneth Tynan had this insight: "A neurosis is a secret that you don’t know you are keeping." I bring this to your attention, Capricorn, because you now have extra power to adapt to changing circumstances, outgrow habitual patterns, and uncover unknown secrets—thereby diminishing your neuroses.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Author Darin Stevenson wrote the following poetic declaration: "'No one can give you the lightning-medicine,' say the people who cannot give the lightning medicine." How do you interpret his statement? Here's what I think. "Lightning medicine" may be a metaphorical reference to a special talent that some people have for healing or inspiring or awakening their fellow humans. It could mean an ingenious quality in a person that enables them to reveal surprising truths or alternative perspectives. I am bringing this up, Aquarius, because I suspect you now have an enhanced capacity to obtain lightning medicine in the coming weeks. I hope you will corral it and use it even if you are told there is no such thing as lightning medicine. (PS: "Lightning medicine" will fuel your ability to accomplish difficult feats.)

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): The superb fairywren gives its chicks lessons on how to sing when they are still inside their eggs. This is a useful metaphor for you in the coming months. Although you have not yet been entirely "born" into the next big plot twist of your hero's journey, you are already learning what you'll need to know once you do arrive in your new story. It will be helpful to become conscious of these clues and cues from the future. Tune in to them at the edges of your awareness.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): For much of her life, Aries poet Mary Ruefle enjoyed imagining that polar bears and penguins "grew up together playing side by side on the ice, sharing the same vista, bits of blubber, and innocent lore." But one day, her illusions were shattered. In a science journal, she discovered that there are no penguins in the far north and no bears in the far south. I bring this to your attention, Aries, because the coming weeks will be a good time to correct misimpressions you've held for a while—even as far back as childhood. Joyfully modernize your understanding of how the world works.

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WHY IS IT CALLED "FREE WILL" ASTROLOGY?

It's called Free Will Astrology because my goal is to create horoscopes that nurture your free will!

Contrary to what some horoscope fans believe, there's no such thing as predestination. Fate is a tricky phenomenon that keeps changing its mind about where it wants to go. The stars may impel, as the astrological saying goes, but they don't compel.

That's why I've never considered myself a fortuneteller. I prefer to think that my greatest service is as a psychic intelligence agent, helping you expose the hidden patterns and unconscious forces that may be affecting your life without your knowledge.

If I "predict" anything, it's not so much the future as the unknown part of the present.

And if you ever want more than the 'scopes you're reading here, keep in mind that I also create EXPANDED AUDIO HOROSCOPES for you. They're four-to-five-minute meditations on the current state of your destiny.

To listen to your Expanded Audio Horoscope online, go to https://RealAstrology.com

Register and/or log in through the main page.

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The cost is $6 per sign online. (Discounts are available for bulk purchases.)

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"Your audio horoscopes help me love myself better, and I mean that in a non-narcissistic way."

—Deva Paramaus, Indianapolis

"I'm really grateful for the way you pick up my telepathic requests and answer them in your expanded audio 'scopes."

—Marion Houseman, Birmingham, AL

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TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Actor Elizabeth Taylor described her odd rhythm with actor James Dean. Occasionally, they'd stay awake till 3 am as he regaled her with poignant details about his life. But the next day, Dean would act like he and Taylor were strangers—as if, in Taylor's words, "he'd given away or revealed too much of himself." It would take a few days before he'd be friendly again. To those of us who study the nature of intimacy, this is a classic phenomenon. For many people, taking a risk to get closer can be scary. Keep this in mind during the coming weeks, Taurus. There'll be great potential to deepen your connection with dear allies, but you may have to deal with both your and their skittishness about it.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): There are many different kinds of smiles. Four hundred muscles are involved in making a wide variety of expressions. Researchers have identified a specific type, dubbed the "affiliation smile," as having the power to restore trust between two people. It's soothing, respectful, and compassionate. I recommend you use it abundantly in the near future—along with other conciliatory behavior. You're in a favorable phase to repair relationships that have been damaged by distrust or weakened by any other factor. (More info: tinyurl.com/HealingSmiles)

CANCER (June 21-July 22): According to feminist cosmologists Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, "Night, to ancient people, was not an 'absence of light' or a negative darkness, but a powerful source of energy and inspiration. At night the cosmos reveals herself in her vastness, the earth opens to moisture and germination under moonlight, and the magnetic serpentine current stirs itself in the underground waters." I bring these thoughts to your attention, fellow Cancerian, because we're in the season when we are likely to be extra creative: as days grow shorter and nights longer. We Crabs thrive in the darkness. We regenerate ourselves and are visited by fresh insights about what Sjöö and Mor call "the great cosmic dance in which everything participates: the movement of the celestial bodies, the pulse of tides, the circulation of blood and sap in animals and plants."

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Your heart has its own brain: a "heart brain." It's composed of neurons similar to the neurons in your head's brain. Your heart brain communicates via your vagus nerve with your hypothalamus, thalamus, medulla, amygdala, and cerebral cortex. In this way, it gives your body helpful instructions. I suspect it will be extra strong in the coming weeks. That's why I suggest you call on your heart brain to perform a lot of the magic it specializes in: enhancing emotional intelligence, cultivating empathy, invoking deep feelings, and transforming pain.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): How did naturalist Charles Darwin become a skillful thinker who changed the world with his theory of evolution? An important factor, according to businessperson Charlie Munger: "He always gave priority attention to evidence tending to disconfirm whatever cherished and hard-won theory he already had." He loved to be proved wrong! It helped him refine his ideas so they more closely corresponded to the truth about reality. I invite you to enjoy using this method in the coming weeks, Virgo. You could become even smarter than you already are as you wield Darwin's rigorous approach to learning.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): You could soon reach a new level of mastery in an aptitude described by author Banana Yoshimoto. She wrote, "Once you've recognized your own limits, you've raised yourself to a higher level of being, since you're closer to the real you." I hope her words inspire you, Libra. Your assignment is to seek a liberating breakthrough by identifying who you will never be and what you will never do. If you do it right—with an eager, open mind—it will be fun and interesting and empowering.

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Homework. For your homework, write an essay on "What Rob Brezsny Is Most Ignorant About." Newsletter.FreeWillAstrology.com

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