Great Circle Views


Thank you for your interest in my work. This book is an unusually large volume (605 pages), taking fourteen years to complete. It was a time-consuming work mainly because it called for a difficult task: to explore a number of important subjects relevant to our changing times—most of these subjects being deep, abstract, or complex—while writing for an audience of dedicated readers and truth seekers with a variety of tastes. In order to write about these subjects for individuals with a wide diversity of reading preferences, I created some departures from conventional forms of overall composition.

Along with its purpose of addressing a range of readers’ tastes, this unorthodox style of overall composition was needed for constructing and deconstructing difficult materials. Conventional methods of formal, academic writing would have required time-consuming research and composition, and they would have produced unnecessary amounts of complicated materials too dry and laborious for most readers. Likewise, conventional methods of informal writing—such as metaphorical novels—would have left too many important aspects of certain themes out of the mix. The form I created for this work is a composite derived from principles and qualities found in three types of communication:

  1. Mind mapping

  2. Enriching conversations with a close friend

  3. Techniques of learning used in self-improvement seminars

Below are some brief notes about these three types of communication, and those notes are followed with comments about my decision to combine them into a composite style of writing to serve the purposes of this book.

Mind Mapping

In the mid-Eighties I worked as an associate with the John-David Learning Institute and the Whole Brain Learning Institute. Based in the San Diego area, these were learning centers for cultivating and balancing the faculties of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Because Western society strongly favors the left brain in its communication and teaching methods, we often needed to learn and practice right brain techniques and methods and to incorporate them into our personal and professional lives. Among those practices was “mind mapping,” a progressive technique used in taking notes, making lists, and jotting down ideas while creatively brainstorming projects.

Mind mapping improves upon the conventional left brain method of dealing with information and ideas, wherein straight lines of words sequentially descend the page in a relatively closed and blocked form. In that conventional form the words usually appear in one dark color, and they are often placed on ruled paper. Mind mapping uses definite structure, definite rules, and literal words; and these engage important left brain talents and skills. Simultaneously, though, wide spaces are opened up by making that structure a loose one of flowing, arcing, and diverging lines on blank paper; and these are often marked in a variety of colors. Abbreviations, at-a-glance styles of condensed notations, and symbols are marked onto these lines and their branches in various ways. These factors engage important right brain talents and skills.

The purpose of mind mapping is to engage the left brain’s natural talents and tendencies for working constructively in disciplined forms, while at the same time engaging the right brain’s natural talents and tendencies for playing productively with creative freedom. When such techniques for left and right brain cooperation are designed knowledgeably, and practiced with an open mind, they can produce methods of communicating and learning that are more fruitful than conventional ones. Therefore, I knew that if I were to fulfill the difficult writing task I had set for myself, some of the principles from the technique of mind-mapping would need to be incorporated into the composition of this book. (Graphics and color are not incorporated in this book.)

Enriching Conversations with a Close Friend

Before the popular movies, My Dinner with Andre and Tuesdays with Morrie, I was fortunate to discover for myself that some of the most enlightening and valuable experiences in life are conversations with the right friend. While a few of my friends come to mind as examples of this, one stands out: my friend, Arco—an intuitive fine-artist with a penetrating intellect, a wide-ranging philosophical mind, a natural talent for conversational excellence, and a natural respect and social grace that is all too uncommon these days.

During the Seventies I often visited with him in his studio. A certain quality of conversation often began when he was silently working at his easel and I was sitting nearby reading, or perhaps writing. Something in his artistic processes would generate a deep thought he wanted to pursue; then he would pause from his painting, glide his old office chair back a foot or two while swiveling its seat to face me, and in a musing tone that was half preamble and half inquiry, address me in his strong southern accent: “Mikeyal...” (Alabama-speak for “Michael”)

Delight! This would usually be the beginning of hours of involved and rich conversations that would include many avenues of communication used for sharing information, for bringing important points, and for bringing a deeper understanding of the subjects we were discussing.

During these conversations he might pull a book from his collection and enthusiastically invite me to read some pages he wanted to share, and then temporarily return to his painting while waiting for my feedback in continuing explorations of the subject. Or he might bring out one his paintings to provide me with a visual aid for a deep philosophy or point he wanted to convey more deeply. Too, we might walk together out into his yard so that one of us could point out something in nature that was somehow directly or allegorically relevant to our discussions. In story-telling fashion, either of us might also disclose details about certain experiences in our youth, and then proceed to tell how the impressions of those early experiences had created interesting or important decisions and experiences later on in life. Contributing information from our own mundane and esoteric explorations of life, nature, and reality, either of us might respectfully challenge an idea or point, support one, or appreciatively use it to open a door for exploring our subject in a new light. And the tone of these conversations also covered a wide range—all the way from heartfelt, earthy humor to a refined and respectful discussion of the sacred.

We spontaneously used many types of these mutually-stimulating approaches as our discussions proceeded. Like appreciative tourists together exploring some grand old city of Truth, we would weave in and out of many conversational byways: current events, psychology, the arts, history, politics, metaphysics, science, nature, philosophy, sociology, mysticism, technology—wherever the trail led. Transported by friendship and by hunger for deepening truths, we would be swept up into a feedback loop of mutual exchange that took on a life of its own. Hours later, it would gently set us back down—always with a mutual sense of fulfillment from understanding more about each other; more about our own selves; and more about life, our place within it, and our developmental journey through it.

Arco moved out of the area, and we lost touch with each other for quite a few years. We eventually reconnected and resumed our friendship by phone, occasionally traveling for a visit. During one of these visits, shortly before he passed from this earth, we made a surprising and important discovery about our friendship. Reminiscing about the early days we had enjoyed so much together—all those easel-side conversations into the wee hours—we discovered that both of us had always thought that the other one was the “Andre” or the “Morrie” who had led those discussions; who had brought forth the conversational abundance, the enlightenment, the personal enrichment.

From this discovery I came to understand that mutual love, mutual deep respect, and mutual high trust, which are the foundation for all blue-ribbon friendships, are the catalysts for bringing forth the clearest truths and the deepest understanding from any communications.

I knew that those attitudes, along with some flavor of the free-roaming style of conversation that Arco and I used and appreciated so thoroughly, must somehow be incorporated into the composition of this book. Especially in the more informal segments of the chapters, I have written to you, valued reader, in the spirit of conversing with my close friends.

Techniques of Learning used in Self-improvement Seminars

Arco and I had both participated in self-improvement seminars, and this was another factor that heightened the quality of our communications. These seminars—at least the good ones—build respect and trust into the composition of their learning processes. In this venue basic levels of respect and trust are incorporated to serve as practical techniques for progressive learning.

Basic respect is given to each participant for their courage to continue exploring for truths when their developmental journey takes them into personal realms that are psychologically uncomfortable or painful. Respect is also given to the style they choose for navigating through those personal difficulties. Participants are trusted to maintain focus on the spirit of the seminar: that their willingness to explore for life-improving truths is more important than maintaining their ego comfort. They are trusted to continue with their explorations in the face of confusion or fear. They are trusted to maintain their understanding that anger and resentment—which often arise during some of the learning processes—are natural manifestations of letting go of nonproductive or counterproductive dogmas and identities and other useless mental habits. And they are trusted to give their best in their attempts to let go of this anger and resentment, rather than to succumb to weakness and direct that negativity toward the learning processes or toward those who are endeavoring to help them improve their lives.

Another important learning dynamic used in self-improvement seminars— especially in the ones which last for several days, and wherein participants live on-site to keep the learning-momentum rolling—is one of using a variety of experiential processes that gradually build upon one another in a particular way: Throughout the seminar some of these processes are revisited totally, in part, or from some new angle. In this circular style of progressive learning, particular growth processes are gradually abandoned as their benefits become increasingly anchored and as new circular processes are being taken up. This learning style of frequent and varied re-visitation has proven to be very effective for those who choose to sincerely and patiently participate in it. (“Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.”—Kierkegaard.)

Knowing and appreciating the effectiveness of these seminar techniques, I decided to incorporate into this book’s composition similar forms of circular processes for progressive learning. And while writing, I gave to potential readers the same kind of practical respect and trust as that which was mentioned above as being inherent to the techniques and processes in the best self-improvement seminars.

One purpose of these author’s notes is to alert readers that they will encounter some departures from traditional forms of composition. The presence of such innovations is in no way intended to present or to establish new forms for use by other writers. They are simply exploratory techniques for creating a style of writing that reflects the positive attributes of the three styles of communication and learning mentioned above, and which therefore endeavors to serve the task of covering well a variety of challenging materials for an audience with diversified tastes for reading and learning styles. Since most of us do not like unexpected change, I felt it would be considerate to alert readers to the presence and purpose of such changes in conventional forms.

A few comments on the work of combining the above three forms of communication follow. (While these may be of interest mainly to other writers and English buffs, they also touch upon how our left and right brains function with differing talents as our minds perceive and conceive things in the quest for new knowledge. This left brain/right brain theme is an important one which runs throughout the book. While that ongoing theme serves partly to share interesting information about the way the two “sides” of our minds work and affect all aspects of our lives, it serves mainly to help readers gain a deeper understanding of other main themes in the book. Important notes concerning this will follow the comments below.)

Because the innovation of this composite style was necessarily a process-of- becoming as I wrote, the earlier chapters were a little experimental. Finding a good balance of left and right brain methods was challenging. I endeavored to do to conventional structures of composition what the techniques of mind mapping do to conventional forms of list-making and note-taking. I endeavored to open them up, trade- in some of the traditional formalities of mechanistic composition for more informal flow, and to create techniques for allowing my own right brain, and that of my readers, room to breathe and to bring insights through productive play. The free-roaming nature of friendly conversation and the circular processes for progressive learning are natural right brain methods of communication and learning; so these styles fit nicely into my endeavor. To visually open up the overall read, and to give readers a little more feel of freedom and flow, I chose to double-space between most paragraphs and to indent each paragraph’s first line (rather than to block it left, as is conventional with double-spaced paragraphs). And, utilizing a technique learned at the John-David learning Institute, the right hand margins are not justified. This balances the formal, linear left margin with an informal, non-linear right one—each paragraph’s image subliminally stimulating both left and right brain tendencies and talents.

Readers will find other innovations in technique; like parenthetical material that is dropped a font size, italicized, and embedded in the paragraph as a style of incidental footnoting. (This technique avoids page-bottom footnotes, whose location forces readers to disengage from their place, skip to the bottom of the page, read, and then go back up and try to find their place again. That separating and skipping process throws readers into an unnecessary left brain process which can temporarily derail the right brain skills that are being stimulated by flow and spatial encompassing.) [The size feature may be altered if you are reading this on electronic media and choose your own font-size.] With the same purpose of traditional footnoting, that technique alerts readers that the included material is relevant to the information at hand, but not as much so as material included in parenthesis of the normal typeface and font size.

This right brain style of noting incidental material is balanced with a left brain style: Conventional numerical tags are used to signal certain endnotes, which are placed together in the back of the book, instead of at the bottom of the page or at the end of each chapter. These endnotes are used for materials that are more formal or that would be too digressing from the flow of the main read; such as bibliographical references and recommended reading for further exploration of the subject at hand. For readers who are interested in them, digressing materials, such as optional exercises, and additional commentaries that elaborate on the subject, are also held in the endnotes. These are announced in reduced-font bracketed windows that stand alone and precede a numerical tag for locating those materials.

  1. Here is a full example from Chapter Nine:
    [For those who are interested in a side-exploration of this subject, this chapter’s final endnotes are composed of a number of points/counterpoints concerning the idea of “intelligence” and “utopian civilizations,” as compared between our own modern civilizations and that of the pre-Columbian North American Indians.] <13>

Occasionally, bracketed materials, although somewhat digressing, are included in the regular text because of the importance of their message.

(A computer analogy might best illustrate the purpose of these unconventional styles for including incidental materials: The small parenthetical “footnotes” embedded within paragraphs may be thought of as little pop-up windows offering interesting asides concerning the subject at hand. The isolated and endnote-tagged brackets inviting readers to options held at the end of the book may be thought of as larger pop-up windows referring to further materials about the subject at hand. And the bracketed paragraphs that are occasionally embedded in the overall text may be though of as pop-up “alert windows” containing important notations concerning the discussion at hand.)

And there are larger innovations to be found. As mentioned above, there is a more circular flow in the overall progressive expansion of the materials that are developing ideas. For instance, note the relative sequence of the chapter titles listed in this book’s Table of Contents. The last six chapters revisit the first six chapters in such a way that the earlier chapter and the later one revisiting it could be called “sister chapters.” (This not only serves progressive learning through circular processes, it creates another option for anyone interested in delving more deeply into the materials: Once the entire book has been read, and contexts for certain words and themes therefore understood, the two sister chapters could be read together as a method of review that would bring forward subtler or deeper insights.)

Other departures from conventional writing styles and composition may be noticed by readers, but too much introduction here would be as counterproductive as none.

This book covers a wide range of subjects and interweaves several themes toward bringing a greater understanding of big-picture dynamics at work in our world’s changing times. That—along with the nature of the unconventional style of composition that was created to meet the challenges of this work—generated a large volume. And that is good: the read is not meant to be a quick and easy skim for gathering information for reference, trivial pursuits, or titillation of the intellect. It is designed to be more like the learning processes in one of those self-improvement seminars that last for four or five days. In that kind of venue, we first learn to commit to the full length of the seminar. Then, as the days unfold, we learn to relax and slow down a little; so that we can spend some quality time with old information in order to gain some new insights about that information, and also so that we can become open to unusual ways of processing and perceiving new information. In these processes we learn to allow an overall experience of deepened understanding and awakened potential to be gradually opened from the sum of many seemingly-unrelated intellectual and felt experiences.

Finally, left brain and right brain communication techniques are woven throughout the text—sometimes by featuring one or the other for awhile, sometimes by switching back and forth often, and sometimes by blending them together in various ways. These include right brain techniques such as fiction, poetry, metaphor, humor, biographical anecdotes, and hypothetical constructs; and left brain techniques such as presentation of objective and factual information, logical constructions and deconstructions, literal interpretation, and rational analysis. This admixture helps to eventually bring to the participating reader deeper understanding of the materials and therefore a greater grasp of the whole truth about various issues and themes—a quality of truth impossible to gain with too much habitual right brain predominance or left brain predominance (and their dependence upon their respective styles of perceiving, learning about, and communicating about the dynamics of overall Reality).

Since most of us are predominate in one brain side or the other, certain portions of the material might present challenges to readers. Mainly, these would be challenges to one’s comfort zone in drawing understanding from certain materials; and consequently, challenges to one’s comfort zone in reading pace. Throughout the book, information and exercises concerning left and right brain functions are included because of their relevance to the theme being discussed, and these often serve as well for tips on how to deal with any reading challenges that would require exercising one’s weaker side of the brain. Readers who are more hungry for expanded truths than they are for their habitual styles of processing information will get the most from the materials (as do the participants in self- improvement seminars who are more hungry for their own improvement than they are for their own comfort when challenged by certain exercises and processes).

Conventional Western methods for communicating and learning are decidedly left brain-predominant, and they essentially utilize a point-by-point, connect-the-dots, building-block-structured method of progression. This is much facilitated by literal and logical communications, which are delivered in a rather mechanical step-by-step style. It can be difficult for those of us trained in these methods to move upward in a learning process if we feel we have not fully grasped the point-at-hand or the theme-at-hand with our left brain skills; it feels to us as if we are dealing with a missing rung on a ladder. But, as all mature adults have come to experientially understand, life—or creative, evolutionary nature—forces us to evolve our understanding by continually throwing into our faces a chaotic hodge-podge of constantly-changing challenges. And most of these cannot be fully understood or are totally baffling at the time. (Again, “Life must be lived forward,but can only be understood backwards.”—Kierkegaard.) Therefore,it is a valuable practice for readers to move upward the best they can past any seeming “missing rungs,” and to trust in these kinds of things:

  1. A left brain’s “missing rung” of understanding does not necessarily abort or even sabotage the real learning process.

  2. It may be more beneficial in the long run for a particular individual to never gain a left brain grasp of a certain point or theme.

  3. The information may be clarified to the left brain by later materials. It may better serve the learning process to have it clarified later.

  4. Subliminal right brain processes can grasp understanding that is missed by the conscious left brain, and then later subliminally drop that understanding like an invisible jigsaw piece into a left brain’s ongoing conscious synthesis (in order to bring from that synthesis a much deeper or broader understanding to consciousness).

  5. Everyone’s subconscious has magnificent right brain dynamics that are always working for their own progressive benefit—in terms of their own unique individuality!

Of most importance: The various exercises and processes in self-improvement seminars are meant to be challenging, but they are not tests with right or wrong answers. And when meeting those challenges, there is no set personal style of approach that is right for every participant; it is best when each person’s style of approach is an expression of their uniqueness. These same principles apply to any challenges you may encounter in this lengthy work with its various styles for communicating and gaining understanding. In the same spirit of those seminars, I again remind you that my respect and trust are given to you; respect for entering into the processes of this book (if you so choose), and trust that you will first give those processes the benefit of the doubt if and when your mind or ego get ruffled by ideas or communication styles that challenge the conventions to which you are accustomed.

I have endeavored to bring a work that is structured and serious; yet one that is often relaxing and enjoyable. I sincerely hope you will be informed and entertained. Most of all I hope you will be intrigued, and that you will find lasting benefit from your own independent contemplation of the materials offered.

author’s NOtes - The Great Circle

The form I created for this work is a composite derived from principles and qualities found in three types of communication: mind mapping; enriching conversations with a close friend; and techniques of learning used in self-improvement seminars. Below are some brief notes about these three types of communication, and those notes are followed with comments about my decision to combine them into a composite style of writing to serve the purposes of this book.

One purpose of these author’s notes is to alert readers that they will encounter some departures from traditional forms of composition. They are simply techniques for creating a style of writing that reflects the positive attributes of the three styles of communication and learning mentioned above.

This book covers a wide range of subjects and interweaves several themes toward bringing a greater understanding of big-picture dynamics at work in our world’s changing times. It is a large book, and that is good: the read is not meant to be a quick and easy skim for gathering information for reference, trivial pursuits, or titillation of the intellect; but is meant for gaining understanding.

I have endeavored to bring a work that is structured and serious; yet one that is often relaxing and enjoyable. I sincerely hope you will be informed and entertained. Most of all I hope you will be intrigued, and that you will find lasting benefit from your own independent contemplation of the materials offered.