We’re learning about climate on Mars from a webcam (installed to send us pictures of a now lost lander), which is now being used to reveal more about this long cloud which sometimes persists on the planet:

A Mars Express image of Arsia Mons on Mars and its strange long cloud, taken on July 19, 2020. (Image credit: ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao)
ESO/Y.Beletsky – ESO

And it looks like the zodiacal light one can see from any place with dark skies comes from dust also associated with Mars(!), and we’ve been able to learn this because the Juno spacecraft’s huge solar panels turned out to be accidental dust detectors and it looped round the solar system a few times on its way to Jupiter.

The more you look around, the more you find things that you weren’t even looking for.


Some of the best neologisms come out of my conversations with Tom Atlee.

And feel free to comment with one or more answers.

It’s no good when I’m not writing, and it’s not any better when my writing is scattered across various giant corporations’ private systems. More here, more here, more here. (A caricature of a scientist or computer programmer in me decries repetition as a waste of time, but I know better whether from the perspective of magic, spiritual practice, or science, so nyah.)

A frequent thought which plays into my fear of exposing more of my inner experience or – horrors – reaching out for support is a generalized fear that nobody wants to hear my ‘drama.’ One response of course is for me to get specific as soon as I notice it’s generalized. That is, see if a particular incident or imagined incident is provoking the fear. If there is one that’s much easier to connect with, and if not, then that discovery itself can support me to just let it go.

At the same time, how do we stop making fun of drama? Maybe remember it’s all born of trauma. So if we don’t have time or energy for it right now and have the ability to step away that’s fine, but do but do we have to make fun at it? (Okay maybe we do with those with whom trust runs deep. With compassion, an actual levity about it can defang the despisal of drama.)

Underneath any drama or trauma can be layers and layers of experiences and thinking and confusion to sort through, but there is always someone or multiple someones in pain. When we can’t see what is stimulating it — “they’re just being dramatic” — it’s an opportunity to learn. We may not be ready to take it up, but being dismissive just deepens the alienation.

How can we love the drama? We all do already! Even the haters of drama give ourselves away (oh yes, I do it too). So many are endlessly fascinated, returning to talk about how terrible it is again and again and again. Some are driven via their fascination to even more dramatic action.

We are dramatic, most of us traumatized, beings.

What if it all deserves the attention it is treated with? What would/does that attention to drama look like when more of it is healthier?

I haven’t watched the film (Netflix has it now, so it’s getting attention), but will, and then I’ll dig into this critique and write something back here. If you see other worthy critiques please leave them in the comments!

One focus lately has been on algorithms and their amplification of hate and misinformation, or their use to avoid responsibility and obfuscate greed, which have been truly despicable (h/t Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction). That said, this is not fundamentally new — our systems already encouraged irresponsibility and greed to a pathological degree, and our anti-trust enforcement has been weak for decades, so getting where we are now was a likely waypoint.

I don’t join most of the newer services but like most people am quite attached to some people/groups on the ones I use, and don’t know immediately what alternatives would meet the same needs. And while I can imagine (and predict) doing a lot to help particular groups and individuals shift to alternatives, it’s clearly an area where having done it will help show people it is possible.

Does it have to be all-or-nothing? If you only go to particular groups, pages, individuals on a service then you are following your own nose, not what the algorithm tells you. Except for popup alerts, sidebar recommendations. Okay yes. And then there are browser plugins which can hide those and help defang other things to a degree, for example Facebook Container (blocks some tracking). But I mean — raise your hand if you battling with the websites you use by installing special code? No one? And yet here we are. What cost would you rather pay, to have a web you trusted?

It’s a problem which extends far beyond algorithms or social media, leading inevitably to questions of how funding influences information & communication, the advertising bubble, propaganda, capitalism itself, and most of all how we understand people and the universe generally.

But writing for any of these companies is gifting them our labor. I’d rather give it closer to myself, here. (WordPress.com as of this writing, but easily transferred to my own domain, and even my own server since WordPress is free software.)

In Nonviolent Communication one assumes that anything we say, do, think, etc. is for meeting a need. In this usage, needs are defined as being abstract (not related to a particular person, place or thing), universal, and positive. Positive in the sense that when someone does or says something you don’t like, understanding the need behind it helps you rehumanize the person. You may still not like what they are doing or saying, but you’d like them to have some way to meet their needs.

So needs are things like connection and food and purpose and clarity and so on. The language of Nonviolent Communication and most of the practices around it are designed to help us tune in to our own needs, and to others’ needs, so that all of us can be moved together to seek & find creative strategies that might meet everyone’s needs to the greatest degree possible.

Some even assert that it is possible to meet all needs.

This can seem wildly unrealistic in the face of daily suffering and death we see and for too many, experience. Further, even in a world in which unnecessary suffering and death had been eliminated(!) there would still be fairly common, as would moments when one’s needs were not all being met. So, why are people steeped in NVC so upbeat about the possibilities?

Broadly, there are two ways of meeting needs. (in practice they can run together but hopefully this distinction is helpful)

One is to find strategies to meet a need. Identifying a need can help clarify or point to strategies that will help. But Nonviolent Communication does not promise your needs can all be perfectly met all of the time. This is why needs are defined as being abstract – not connected to any particular person, place, or thing. If your need for safety is up because your kidney is at risk, you can learn to be more creative in strategies for saving the kidney but you may still lose it. Your need for safety relates to other things besides your kidney though, so your need for safety can still be met in those other areas.

The other approach is to meet the need as one would meet a good friend. Whether a need is being met or not, something is giving you a chance to connect with your needs! So, when you get to a need that feels like “it” really stop and let the awareness of that need spread through you. Sit with it. This is what is meant in Nonviolent Communication by “connecting with our needs.” When people in conflict connect with each other’s needs in this way it helps humanize the ‘other’ in our hearts – even if we pursue the same strategies, now they are at least looking for ways that will meet ours as well. If the ultimate result is unsatisfying to either, both will mourn it. Even if the actual circumstances don’t change much, it can go from grinding to surprisingly graceful. This same shift can occur when the ‘conflict’ is with a need we don’t know how to meet (in a particular way).

(Skip if this makes no sense, but: If a given need is not helping, dig deeper! I’ve found you can always keep going for needs behind needs behind needs. Just because a word is on a list of needs (there are many of them) doesn’t mean it has to connect for you every time. Personally, I struggle to connect with safety – what do I want to be safe from? Death? So I have a need for life! Why do I want to be alive? People I care about, goals in life (purpose)? Ah, now it’s easy for me to connect. And there are multiple needs on the table to sit with. Painful situations can enable one to tap into needs deeply, with enough empathy. Doesn’t fix the situation, but it helps in how we experience it and roots us to what matters most.)

Even though this second approach is not focused on strategies, it still results in creative ones fairly frequently!

I credit our powerful need to be with things as they are for so many people discovering and sharing the even more widely-practiced and related approach of simply experiencing pain, allowing the sensations themselves to be there without going to needs and finding a kind of witness position to them. Many people who practice Nonviolent Communication come to something like this organically, and of course there are many other teachings (secular & religious – meditation, mindfulness, etc.) which focus on this explicitly.

Writing about this stuff helps keep it in mind more. Companionship practicing it would help me bring it back more regularly. Contact me if you are interested.

Feeds by email


I am a fan of feeds – RSS, Atom, etc. – a chunk of Internet commons tech which enables a thousand creative uses of any linear information source – blogs, news, alerts, etc. Since Google Reader’s death some years back there has been a quiet increase of developer activity around feeds, which is nice to see. Or maybe I’m just paying more attention! One place I do so is at r/rss, where u/ima_computa just posted about a web service they created – https://rssby.email/ which does exactly what you think it will – it sends you an email when a feed gets a new post. And all you have to do to add a feed is send it an email!

This post is mainly to trigger the service so I can see it in action.

Whatever you can do
or dream you can
begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.


Being in the now, the most honest & vulnerable, largest, fullest now. Many times a day. This is what I now begin again. This will certainly involve music, meditation, writing, and many memorable conversations with myself and maybe you. What else?

photo Leon Lee ©2012

The Space Between Us Is Love

The space between us is love.
Full of care for each other and those not here,
and possibility
with the same life it has when we embrace,

The space between us is love,
because what isn’t?

The space between us is love.
It opens up and we do not know
what next will appear?

The space between us is love.
Let our planet’s gravity protect us from
literal curses we may spew at each other
and with immediate or later regret.

The space between us is love.
In that moment between what I thought
and those words I said.
And oh how I wish I could take them back.
Oh how I will hold that space,
next time.


The space between us is love
The space between us is love
The space between us is love

The space

John Abbe, March 2020

I’ve been explicitly seeking spiritual community for a few months now, and just realized it’s plural. Not that I want more than one spiritual community necessarily, but that there are two overlapping sets of activities I’m engaged in:

  • A search for spiritual community for myself — formally with the Friends, and informally through Nonviolent Communication networks and whatever other opportunities present themselves.
  • Learning more about spiritual community and holding space for others’ search for spiritual community.

One thing that I am learning is how bespoke spiritual community is, perhaps must be from the individual perspective — people move toward or away from different spiritual institutions or possibilities for all kinds of reasons many of which go largely unexplored. And yet part of the draw of community is that it offers some kind of reliable commonality, some throughline.

Does this bring up something you’d like to share? Are you in or seeking to be in one or more spiritual communities? Comment below or email me at johnca@ourpla.net

Testing in serious numbers is just getting underway in the US, so the number of cases reported here will be jumping. (3/8) “Don’t panic” is always good advice (thank you, Douglas Adams) but “Better safe than sorry” also seems to apply here.

This article on pandemic phases (3/9) notes that phase two is “when people who don’t realise they have contracted Covid-19 go about their daily lives rather than stay isolated.” This is where a lot of the US is right now, and the article includes this image (already on Wikimedia), depicting how being careful now will help prevent COVID-19 from doing more harm than it will already:


A doctor in Italy (now on lockdown across the country) noted yesterday: “Some of our colleagues who are infected also have infected relatives and some of their relatives are already struggling between life and death. So be patient, you can’t go to the theatre, museums or the gym. Try to have pity on the myriad of old people you could exterminate.