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Newsletter March '22

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Welcome to the newsletter of A Biosphere Project, March 2022

In this edition:

- In response to the war in Ukraine

- Essays and a course

- The Journeys

Friday, March 4, '22

A little later than first planned, the first newsletter from A Biosphere Project.

I've been hesitating whether to send this out now, as we all watch in bewilderment as the horror unfolds in Europe, and the suffering of millions of people will increase from day to day.

So before I start off on A Biosphere Project, just this.

I begin this newsletter in a small village in Somogy County, Hungary.

My wife Agnes (who is of Hungarian descent) and I have the privilege of owning an old mud farmhouse with a large garden here (or rather, we have it on loan from the Earth) .

As an international couple, we live our lives in two countries, like so many people today. The world is getting smaller, and I believe that is a very good thing in most ways.

But the world is not small enough yet, it seems: on the day we left Belgium what everyone feared but most of us did not really believe would happen in fact did happen : Russia began an invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

That two countries that are so connected in language, culture and history should find themselves in a bloody and totally senseless war in the year 2022 is heartbreaking and discouraging.

The past two days I have therefore taken a news break. It became too much for me and the horror and senselessness of what is happening not so far from here really made me nauseous.

Tomorrow I will probably end this 'news fast', and begin to inform myself again about the progress of this drama, which is now in its ninth day.

For the past few days I have been focusing on beauty and love.

This is not escapism: beauty and love are two aspects of reality that are always available, and that we also need in order to nourish and recharge ourselves in a world that is going through such difficult and even horrific times on so many levels.

Much of the world's misery is a result of our lack of faith in that reality: that beauty and love are real forces in the world.

The two are closely linked: we love what we find beautiful, and we find beautiful what we love.

And Agnes and I love this place in the small Hungarian village very much. It is much more than a "second home. It is a place that is home to us as much as it is the place where my wife unfolds the Hungarian part of her projects.

Our roots are as much here as in Belgium.

The house and the garden radiate simplicity, there is nothing that doesn't need to be there, life here is honest and stripped of all that is unnecessary, and the energy of this part of the Earth is very special. It is therefore not difficult to reconnect with beauty and love in what we consider to be an oasis.

The garden, night, tree and stars, Somogy province, Hungary

A few days ago it snowed, something that is becoming increasingly rare also here in this part of Hungary. It was cold enough that the snow stayed for a day and a night, and that made for an enchanted scene in and around the village.

At night, the snow-covered large garden, which is rather wild and somewhat remote and bordering a forest, was illuminated by the glow of the countless stars that shine brightly here because there is very little light pollution.

I took a long night walk in this snow-covered garden, felt the resonance and energy of this place, and inhaled the mysterious splendor of this scene in which I was immersed as if in a womb.

It may seem strange to compare a snow-covered garden in the freezing cold to a womb. Of course, I also have no memory of what it was like to be in a womb, at least no memory that I have access to now.

But I associate it, like most people, with a feeling of total security and love and warmth.

And I felt all of those things, in the garden during that nighttime walk under the stars. Security, connection, and the feeling of being an inseparable part of something indescribably beautiful and all-encompassing. Despite the awareness of the battle that has broken out in the neighboring country and which will undoubtedly cause a great deal of human suffering, the feeling of being carried by and immersed in something larger than we can imagine dominated.

Albert Einstein once said, "One of the most important decisions a person has to make in life is whether to believe that the Universe is a friendly or an unfriendly place.”

It often seems easier and more logical to believe that the Universe is an unfriendly place, especially in times of natural disasters, war, and other human misery. Believing that the Universe is fundamentally friendly while you are being fired upon with a machine gun and cluster bombs are exploding nearby is not obvious. Nor is watching your children slowly perish during a famine, or your rickety boat capsize during a crossing to Europe, hoping for a better life.

It is infinitely easier to believe in a friendly Universe within the safety of one's own garden or home in a country where there is no war (as yet), where there is relative prosperity, and where I can be fairly confident that I am not going to be shot at or otherwise be in danger.

Still, like many people, I too have experienced things that were extremely painful and in some cases life-threatening. I would not dare to claim that those experiences were as terrible as those of a mother who loses her children in a bombing or in a famine. But they were painful enough to present me with that same choice: do I believe that the Universe is in its essence friendly or unfriendly? There were enough experiences available in my life to decide the latter, but I have time and again arrived at the conclusion that the Universe is indeed in its essence a friendly one.

It is a conclusion that can raise many questions: why do terrible things happen in a friendly Universe? Why tsunamis and famines and wars? Why do we seem unable to live in peace? Why do we seem incapable of stopping the loss of our biosphere?

I will write more about the how of that conclusion in my upcoming essays and blog entries, since it is an important part of my project: to investigate what we believe about the world. What we manifest in the world is a direct consequence of what we (often unconsciously) believe about the world. We create what we believe.

To this end, in addition to the physical travels that are meant to lead to photographic essays, I also want to undertake 'journeys in consciousness': my own research into the origin and nature of our worldview, possible alternatives to it, and the connection with my own personal history - since I do not believe that we can really understand what is happening in the world if we see it as something separate from ourselves. The distinction between ourselves and the world is an illusion.

That is also the perspective I want to maintain as the horror of war unfolds again, a horror that now becomes even more vividly present to us now that it is very nearby (an aspect of our capacity for empathy that is perhaps regrettable but oh so human: we identify much more readily with the suffering of people nearer than far.

I would argue that the causes of this war (and any war) are fundamentally the same as the causes of the demise of our biosphere. It's the same problem we run into every time, and it will keep repeating itself until we change what we believe about the world and ourselves. Until our cosmology changes that is.

Joachinus De Gigantibus

Sun, Mars, Earth, Venus, Moon and Mercury

In: Christianus Prolanius, Astronomia, Naples 1478

Essays and a course

This brings us to the first item in my newsletter: the essays I have begun writing regarding the belief structure of our society and "civilization" (a word I always put in quotation marks because it is a very relative term).

After completing and launching the A Biosphere Project website last December, my first task was to further fine-tune a number of things related to the site, begin to build an email database and learn to navigate the capabilities of the email platform to get everything ready to send regular (once or twice a month) updates, be they newsletters or new blog posts or essays.

Right after that, I started what was supposed to be a fairly long essay on cosmology (the totality of a culture's beliefs about the nature of reality), and its relevance to everything regarding our relationship to our planet and all that we understand by "ecology.

However, this essay quickly became so long that I was faced with a choice: either turn it into a book or a series of essays of more manageable length. I chose the second.

But in doing so, the writing of this essay series on cosmology also took another turn: I started a collaboration with my wife, life partner and spiritual partner Agnes.

Agnes has developed a workshop on the energies of the body and consciousness as part of her project "The Secrets of Looking" last year.

More info on this workshop which consists of two parts can be found on her website:

During this course, participants learn how to become masters of the energies of their bodies and consciousness to a much greater degree, and they learn how the energy of consciousness has a far-reaching influence on one's own body and on the energy of others.

Some of these things seem quite miraculous when the students experience them for the first time. Some of the things we take for granted about the nature of our consciousness are called into question, and the participants learn, by focusing their attention, to bring about things that we usually do not realize are possible. None of this, however, is weird or esoteric: on the contrary, it is very much down to earth, practical, and simple. Moreover, these experiences tie in with new insights emerging in science.

I have developed a presentation for each of the two course sections in which I give a brief background on recent developments in science that cast both the nature of physical reality and the nature of consciousness in a new light. This concise presentation frames what students are learning in the broader context of a changing worldview looming in "cutting edge science," and makes clear that a scientific basis is growing for a very different relationship to our consciousness.

Putting together these presentations, which I spent much of the month of January doing, was not a "distraction" or a "detour," for the information I was summarizing and sharing was a result of a lifelong interest in science and cosmology, an interest that led in part to my new direction and project from my work as a visual artist.

All this will certainly continue to find its way into my upcoming writings and into how the photographic travel project will continue to unfold.

The development of these presentations coincided naturally with the writing of the start of what is to become a series of reflections on cosmology and paradigm. And it reinforced my conviction that our cosmology largely determines what we are doing on and with this planet (and with each other), but also how we are on the eve of a great upheaval in what we all believe about the world.

All this finds a wonderful concrete realization and form in the exercises Agnes has developed.

So it promises to be an ongoing collaboration and I look forward to continuing to give these presentations as part of these workshops.

It is one thing to reflect mentally and intellectually on the nature of consciousness and our changing view of it, it is quite another to experience those aspects of consciousness first hand in very simple exercises.

And as in any realm of life, theory and practice can complement each other very nicely and lead to an understanding that becomes deeper and richer as heart and mind come together.

I will now return to the essays I started and rework them into smaller modules and publish them in 'episodes' on the website.

You can expect the first installment soon.

The Journeys

In the coming months, I will also begin research for the journeys. I will report on my progress in that area along this way.

As you can read on the site of A Biosphere Project, my intention in the coming years is to make short and long travels around Europe to visualize the reality of the climate and biodiversity crisis (which I prefer to call the biosphere crisis) in photographic essays.

These journeys can also be seen as personal pilgrimages in a world that is heading for major changes at an ever faster pace.

The climate in which humans developed agriculture, founded cities, and flourished cultures will no longer exist. At least (at best) not for the next few centuries, until (and only if) humans succeed in removing a gigantic amount of CO2 from the atmosphere again and bring about an unprecedented reform of the entire world society, agriculture and economy.

If humans fail to do so, things do not look good for us, nor for most other species with whom we now share this world.

It is my intention to help in spreading information as to how these changes are already manifesting themselves, and how they are already affecting people and ecosystems in Europe.

In addition to shorter trips to nearby areas, in the coming years I want to make at least one long trip in each wind direction to the far ends of Europe.

As my first trip, I have chosen the North Cape, the northernmost point of mainland Europe, as my goal. Along the way, I want to make short and long stops to capture places and people.

This first journey will require quite some preparation and research. That is why it will not take place before the summer of 2023. It is my intention to map out a route that will enable me to portray as many aspects of the biosphere crisis as possible.

Shorter journeys can already take place as part of the preparations for the longer journeys, depending on whether information, events or people present themselves that invite a photographic and/or intellectual or spiritual journey closer to home.

The shorter journeys can also have a meeting or an interview as primary goal .

Part of my research will be to seek out people who can give me more information about possible routes and destinations on my coming travels, and some of those visits may become journeys in themselves.

I will gather information about places that are already suffering in the biosphere crisis, but also look for the beauty of what is left to us and what we need to cherish and protect. I want to visit people who are already suffering from the effects of a changing climate, but also people who are already working on new ways of dealing with the world, in things like agriculture, mobility, technology, science and spirituality.

So these journeys will depict not only landscapes but also people. They should be journeys of exploration, recognition, insight, knowledge but also hope. In the coming months I will report on my initial findings and research in blog posts and/or a newsletter.

Monday, March 7, 2022

I got up this morning with a knot in my stomach, a knot that had everything to do with the horrific conflict in Ukraine. We are now back in Belgium, and on the way here it was distressing to see the large numbers of Ukrainians driving westward, in all types of vehicles ranging from small dilapidated vintage cars to large SUVs. These people are the "lucky ones" who have a vehicle to begin with and are probably on their way to stay with family or friends in a Western European country. In the camps on the borders with Ukraine, there are undoubtedly much more harrowing scenes unfolding. In Hungary, the war felt more close, intense and dramatic. Millions of people await a great deal of suffering and loss, and we should allow ourselves to feel that suffering as well. Let this drama be an opportunity to lower our own defenses and really let the madness of war in and experience the pain. So often it remains a distant event: the war in Yemen, in Ethiopia, in Syria,... so often we keep it at a safe emotional distance. Just like the effects of the biosphere crisis, and how that is already affecting so many millions of people and claiming hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

After my brief time-out, I broke my ‘news fast’ this morning and briefly scanned some international coverage of the madness that continues to unfold in Ukraine.

What gives hope so far is how united and supportive much of the world seems to be reacting for the time being, and the hospitality with which the hundreds of thousands of refugees are so far being received in Europe. In contrast to other events not so long ago, when war refugees on Europe's eastern border received an anything but a warm welcome.

What is also encouraging is the seemingly endless resilience and stamina that mankind seems to be able to draw from when everything is at stake. We will need this resilience in the decades to come. Everything is already at stake for us as well, although we do not seem to realize it yet, just as the people of Ukraine probably did not fully realize what was coming their way either. Some things are simply beyond our imagination.

More than once I’ve been asked "what is my intention” with this project.

One intention is to help raise the alarm, because our mainstream media still fail to convey the seriousness and urgency of our situation. I want to do my part to make it clear to society that it is not five minutes to twelve, but twenty past twelve.

I want to sound this alarm in a way that is not solely intellectual, because one of the reasons that the alarm has not yet truly penetrated most people's minds, in my opinion, is that what is coming towards us is too big to be understood purely from the head. We have no concepts that can adequately frame the magnitude of this drama; we lack a frame of reference. We think it is merely a matter of windmills or batteries or nuclear power, and we lack the broader picture of what is going on with the fabric of life on our planet.

And above all, what's coming at us has to be felt first and foremost, from our hearts and our guts. We need to really experience it as something that is related to all of our existence down to the most intimate level. We will never respond adequately as long as we see it as a technical problem that is indeed a challenge but for which technical solutions exist. This view, which is still dominant in our culture, will be the end of us because it is a form of dissociation that cuts us off from the real scale of the events that are coming our way, and the real extent of the loss that we will suffer if we do not change course - not to mention the loss that we are already suffering.

I believe that any approach that does not give the heart as much say as the head about what is ours to do is doomed to fail or likely to merely cause a shift of the problem.

So I want to approach all aspects of the biosphere crisis from a viewpoint that is not merely "rational," "scientific," "academic," "technical," or “intellectual,” but from a viewpoint that may have more in common with possibilities of the visual arts: an intuitive one

, open to unusual ideas and perspectives, and at times possibly seeming extravagant.

As Einstein also once said, "No problem can be solved from the consciousness that created that problem."

And here the circle has unintentionally made its way back to cosmology: ideas can seem extravagant because they don't conform to what is considered 'plausible' within our prevailing cosmology.

And as long as we continue to regard certain things as 'implausible', we will continue to overlook the way out of the labyrinth.

Coming soon, the first installment of my personal exploration of our 'cosmology', our worldview, and how it is actually a particularly strange worldview.

All the best,

Antwerp, March 7, 2022



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