Interview with Dean Walker - November 25, 2017
The following is the transcript of an interview on November 25, 2017 between Inder Comar and Dean Walker, producer of the Poetry of Predicament podcast. The video and transcript are being shared with permission. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Welcome to the Poetry of Predicament podcast. A podcast for people brave enough to face humanity’s challenges and problems, and most importantly our numerous predicaments. The Poetry of Predicament podcast is meant to inspire us to bring force grace, beauty and connection with the web of life in the face of a predicament laden world. This episode of Poetry of Predicament - join us in welcoming our guest Inder Comar.
Dean: And welcome to another episode of the Poetry of Predicament podcast I’m Dean Walker, this is – is it November 25th today, Inder?
Inder: Today is the 25 of November.
Dean: 25th, thank you for that.
Dean: Other than having him here to remind me of what day it is, I am very pleased to have Inder Comar here with us. Inder is a new-to-me writer on a number of internet sources that I happen to scan from time to time. I am thrilled that you are joining us here today to share a little bit about what sounds to me is a robust professional life. Very different than the authors that I usually read in this particular realm of the possible collapse of systems. One of our favorite questions around here is, “Who will we be in the face of our shared predicaments?”
Inder, I just gotta say that your writing – not only is your background refreshing, you bring an entirely different perspective from a different kind of lifestyle and focus of attention, but there’s just this directness that I really have appreciated. I just got through reading – I guess it was an address you did at Lafayette College, so I hope we get to that. But before that, I’d like to ask you to introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about that robust professional life and hopefully we’ll bridge from there into the more personal side of things that you share so beautifully in your writing. So Inder Comar, Welcome!
Inder: Thank you, Dean, thank you for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here and to share a little bit about me and about the work that I’m doing, and about what I think are very aligned personal interests and professional interest about the direction of our civilization.
So I think as you were referencing I’m an attorney and I have basically two different organizations; one is a for profit business that, basically I have been building for about the last 8 years. I have been practicing law for about 12 years. My career started off very traditionally. I went to a law school in New York, I went to NYU Law, and after that I worked for a big global law firm for about 4 years. After that time, I set up my own law practice based in the Bay Area, it’s now grown and we have offices in New York and San Francisco. The last few years I was actually working on a big pro-bono case about the Iraq War that ended this year in March. That experience, that case kind of fell into my lap.
While working on that case, and since the case ended, I had a lot of inspiration that this really is my passion, this type of work. I remembered that this is the main reason I went to law school. You make these decisions early in your life and I think as the reality of economic need sets in, you make other choices because you want to have a standard of living or you have loans or whatever it is, you make choices.
One of the nice things about having my own practice was that I had a lot of freedom and flexibility to take cases that were of interest to me even on a pro-bono basis. So, this year I set up a non-profit called Just Atonement. The work of this non-profit is to work on what I see are the biggest issues of our day, one is climate change and the challenges presented by climate change to us, both in the United States and globally.
The second issue that it addresses are issues of war and peace. This again was kind of an outcome or outgrowth of the case that I did in the last four years, where we were trying to hold people accountable for the Iraq War.
As I worked on these issues, I realized that they’re actually quite linked, and if we’re going to be successful in managing and handling the incredible challenge presented by climate change, we’re going to have to work at a civilizational level to reintroduce things that have already existed for hundreds of years, but we just don’t use; like the concept of dialogue and international affairs, the concept of working together and settling our differences through pacific means.
These are all concepts that have existed in international law, well before you and I have walked on this earth. Part of what we’re trying to do is just reawaken or reanimate these old concepts and use those not only to handle our differences globally, but also to put everyone on the same team and to look at the great challenge that awaits us, really at a civilizational level, and that's the challenge of climate change.
Dean: Right. May I stop you there for just a moment? I want to reassure, I'm sure a very small fraction of my audience that, by small - I'll get to why I'm saying small, I want to let you know that how very interested I am in what you've just laid out. Each of the different types of legal scenarios that you have interest in and what your apparent orientation is to it is of great interest to me, and I think it is exactly lined up with what is relevant with regard to conversations about climate change, and other climate or, excuse me other environmental metrics on the planet.
So I'm hoping - I mean this is way ahead of what I should be saying this but, I'm hoping that we will have many conversations from here out and we can go really further into the deep details of these other cases that you're talking about today. I believe we're gonna end up talking quite a bit more about climate change and we're gonna go down that particular track, but I just want to let you know I'm also very interested in this track you just talked about and how it relates for instance to the conversation about Iraq. So let's put a post-it there for hopefully a later interview and I'd love to go into depth and I'm sorry that I interrupted you.
I know there was one piece I wanted to find out if it's in if it's appropriate to put in the in the lexicon what where you are headed, and that is the notion of “the commons” and the notion of various aspects of our physical world of the earth having standing on their own, just as entities. I'm hoping that those communicate, I don't know the right legal jargon to throw out there to ask but please continue, and I'm sorry for interrupting but I just wanted to put that post-it in there.
Inder: Absolutely, so we can about that. Basically the last year has been very important for me to focus more of my time and energy on these issues. What we're doing at Just Atonement is a lot of legal research particularly on climate, as to how we can use law and courts as a mechanism of accountability over our leaders, to really get them to do something; to do the things they need to do in order to preserve our civilization.
There's a lot of really interesting cases out there right now where people are advancing incredibly new theories that the courts are open to, and that's very surprising to me, but courts are listening. I think judges are finally getting it.
This notion of standing I think is a very important one, because for the last 50 or so years the federal courts have been limiting the ability of people to access justice. Thinking about new and clever ways, creative ways, that for example a river could access the court and say - a litigant could approach the court on behalf of the river, a friend of the river and say this river needs support from the from the court.
I think those are theories that are supportable under current case law. Part of what we're doing at my nonprofit is researching ways that we can explore those theories to really approach the court with urgent problems, and say this is not something that you know someone else can deal with, we have to deal with this. We're asking the court to issue some relief. Those are all really important and interesting questions that I'm just spending more of my time on professionally.
Dean: Right, so we just mentioned, both of us over the past few minutes something about a recent talk that you gave an address, at I believe it was Lafayette College, and I'm wondering if you could say a little bit about what that talk was, and just give us a little mini tour of what you covered in that in that address.
Inder: I was invited to speak by a student group there. It was a really phenomenal experience for a number of reasons; one is the format for me was very unique, where as a lawyer I was asked to give a 25 minute address, and then afterwards there was about an hour question-and-answer with scientists. It was actually very novel in terms of the approach.
It was very cross-disciplinary, so you had people from different research backgrounds, professional backgrounds. I think having the presence of a lawyer with scientists was very important, because a lot of times, the scientists, they come and they approach me and they think they have trouble advocating. For them it's difficult to get their message across about the urgency and importance of action today. So that was really, I thought novel, and a very great approach and we're hoping to replicate that at other universities.
Secondly, the talk was about Puerto Rico. The focus of the talk, and a good way to make the talk relevant, was to take something from recent news, and it allowed me and the professors the ability to focus on a specific case study, and say this was the Puerto Rico example. It was amazing, there were people in the audience from Puerto Rico, and when they were able to speak during the Q&A; I mean many of them became quite emotional talking about the devastation. It made it very personal, and that allowed me to really lay out what I see as both the current situation, and the future situation.
The current situation in my view is dire. I called Puerto Rico the canary in the coal mine in the sense that it really is the last warning we have as a country. It's relevant to us as Puerto Rico is part of America. The time to take action is so urgently needed and when you look at the devastation not only in Puerto Rico, but I also referenced the wildfires this summer in California, where people I know lost their homes that caused great devastation. I was able to really talk about a lot of the theoretical things that people have been talking about in terms of the effects of climate change. To say that this is not theory, this is reality.
When people talk about climate refugees as something that's gonna happen in the future, it's not happening in the future, it’s happening right now; it's happening in Puerto Rico, it happened in California. When people are talking about extreme weather conditions it's not something that it's going to happen in the future, that happened this past summer.
So, it was a really good way to make concrete and plain a lot of the things you read about what's “going to happen to us” it's happening to us, present tense. If that isn't enough to wake people up, I'm not sure what is frankly. That was the exposition, and then finally I ended the talk - and this is actually a big focus of mine both professionally and personally - about what we can do about it. In my view I think it's critical that we work there - I think this it's a call to action to us spiritually in a lot of ways, it's to say we're here on this Earth right now at this specific moment. Why are we here, why are you and I here at this time? I think there's a reason for it, and I think the reason is that you and I are the last hope maybe for our civilization and for our children. It's incumbent upon us to ask kind of deep questions about why are we here at this time.
I think that there is the possibility of an awakening, to set aside maybe what they thought that their life might look like, or set aside cultural expectations. Really a a call to arms to think about how we could make a big difference at this time, to push the Earth and a different future and to really help preserve our civilization in a way that I think still exists. I think the possibility of a positive outcome still exists. I think that window is slowly closing, but I think now is the time that we have to take action.
My hope is that, to continue that theme, where people can you know can really ask soul-searching questions and recognize it's on us, it's on you and me together, to do this; it's not gonna be anybody else.
Dean: Right, well thank you for that layout of what must have been a remarkable talk. I didn't realize that there was that that kind of, not only an abundant time for Q&A after your talk, but also to have various scientists at the ready to address a certain portion of the Q&A. Which do I have that right?
Inder: Yes absolutely.
Dean: So it just sounds like the kind of discourse that should be going on around the world, but especially in this country. So I'm very glad that you shared that with us. I'm definitely the choir that you are preaching to over here you know, and we're completely resonant everything I'm hearing you saying, with possibly one exception.
I should show you my full hand right up front, which is that I I've always considered myself a very environmentally conscious and engaged and caring person. But, I too had my career life and got distracted and got into the corporate kind of suck of the game, and took my attention away from the earth for quite some time. I've been grappling with that in terms of just my complicity in this whole thing, since about three years ago when I heard a presentation about brunt climate change as opposed to the regular climate change that has been debated so long with the deniers and so on.
The one that we seem to have so much difficulty even getting our heads around at a basic level. Abrupt climate change is ferocious compared to even the ferocity that we're looking at, that you described so beautifully at around Maria and the other hurricanes this season and on and on the list goes. I guess what I've been left with is: this is an extraordinary time indeed. I am in desperate search for hope, little nodes of hope.
I absolutely appreciate your articulation of where you go, and how you get there, to keep your heart open, to keep moving forward in a good way, and being not only inspired, inspiring other people. I absolutely applaud you, and please don't hear any criticism there. I've just got to say that I have been particularly discouraged in these past three years, and in the past year I can't find hyperbole anymore. It's extraordinary what we were facing. I did appreciate your layout. I think in a few instances it’s on the conservative side, certainly, and I'm not at all interested in trying to debate what the timing of breakdown of some human or earth system will be.
I'm mentioning it because I just want to share my side of the similar issues that you talked about in your brief description of the Lafayette talk. I'm curious if there's a particular part of - because I know you really gave a broad sweep of the Lafayette talk - I'm wondering if there are particular elements of what's troubling the world right now, that really more than anything else get your attention. Like, when you have a little extra time you go there to research, you go there to put your attention on it. I could say that mine is the ocean, just always been an ocean guy. I'm wondering, do you have a similar focus that you go to?
Inder: You know, you said a lot there. I want to unpack all of it with your question, and I want to talk briefly about the sentiment you shared about just how daunting it all is. It is very daunting. I'm not gonna lie, there are good days and bad days. I think going to your first immediate question, I'm an ocean guy too. For me, I'm not a scientist, I was trained as international relations at university, and I went to law school. People shouldn't be scared of the science, this is one of the things I tell people, is just pick up a newspaper. The newspapers do a pretty good job laying out the science.
Look at the journals, read the abstracts, I don't think that they're that daunting or scary. I think the conclusions can be daunting and scary, but I think the actual logic and thought process is actually very important that people pick up and read, they should come to their own conclusions. I think the scientific method is--we've had it for hundreds of years and you have to trust it.
The scientific method took us to the moon, it's created these fabulous technologies, if it's telling us that these systems are dire conditions I think we have a duty to listen to that.
In terms of the actual systems, I think about the environmental systems as well, like the ocean systems, I think there are critical. I’m a big ocean guy too. I’II want to say I'm focused also on the spiritual-social system too, that we have to look at in terms of addressing these challenges, because I do think that it's part of the problem.
This relates to something earlier you said about how you thought about your complicity. Just to share something, I don't want you to be too hard on yourself, I don't want people to be too hard on themselves in terms of when they had this awakening. We really enter this civilization and this culture with very different messages, so the messages that we're receiving from an early age through our early professional life, don't talk about this at all and there's no there's no concept.
It's really up to us to kind of “leave the cave” to use Plato's allegory of the cave. It's really up to us to leave it, then we come back and we see the shadows on the wall.
I think the complicity comes after you've had this awakening, after you've seen the light and want to go back into the cave -- if you still continue to ignore reality, I think maybe we can maybe reserve some judgement for that. Before all that, I think it's too hard to judge ourselves, and I wouldn't be too hard on yourself.
What I'm focused on now through the nonprofit and through giving these talks is, my hope is that you can push people towards that awakening. You can kind of shake them a bit, and say you know - because it's very easy to box out the science, it's very easy to pretend that the science doesn't exist, and that it doesn't affect us and that we can live our lives based on a preconceived fantasy. I think it's very easy to do that.
What I'm trying to do in the system, what I'm focused on is connecting our consciousness, each person's consciousness to the global system that we inhabit, and making people kind of just look at it, and say look, this is this is what's going on.
Your life 50 years from now, 20 years from now is going to be different. We can do something about it today but you're gonna have to do something differently today. I think when you ask, what do I my spare time, what am I really focused on? I think it's that type of system, and kind of connecting us individually as individual pieces of sentience to the larger sentience that's around us, because we are very disconnected from it, and making people have that awakening moment.
I think if you do that, you can really - one candle isn't gonna light the world, but a thousand candles or 10,000 candles can bring a lot of light. I think maybe what we can do is act as that inspiration, be the candle for the other candles that haven't been lit. Then all of a sudden you have a force that can actually make a significant contribution at this time with what the future might look like.
Dean: Right, well thank you for that and, if you don't mind maybe I could just suggest a little slight shift here in that direction. I named my book - I wrote a book about my process of awakening that you were describing from three years ago, because I immediately had to vet. I had to vet the information because either this is the wackiest bullshit that had ever come down the pike, or this is the real deal, and it is actually the transformation of humanity, and it is the largest scale disruption that we've ever had to handle making world wars one and two to combined to look like nothing. My book I ended up calling ‘The Impossible Conversation’.
I've been in the training business a long time, and worked with people with organizations, with business groups and community groups and so on, and the idea is how can we grow together, how could we learn together obviously in the business settings, with you know return on investment in mind and so on. But, always with the notion of how can we best change and how can we find a limit of our ability to change, and then just ever so slightly go over that limit so that we can change even more and bring ourselves even more life and more goodness.
So just knowing what I know about the basics of that process at a pretty pedestrian level, pretty usual business as usual paradigm level, I knew that for us to confront the of things you and I are talking about right now, that this would indeed be the impossible conversation. The subtitle of the book is ‘Choosing Reconnection and Resilience at the End of Business as Usual’.
I hear you taking on that very similar kind of a calling to have these conversations in your way with people, and to suggest to others. It’s kind of reach one teach one, and ripple out. I don't know if there's a whole lot we could more we could hope for than what you've just described, so I'm very much with you.
I've been noticing really my whole life, but especially again in this past year it's hard not to notice the immense clamp of control at so many levels; some of them very overt and obvious, and some of them well behind multiple layers of smoke and mirrors. That really won't allow rippling out an any significant scale - which again, I don't mean to be saying well so we should all do nothing, and we should all give up, and please don't hear that. I can sometimes be interpreted that way, I have a grumpy style sometimes.
I guess what I'm asking is, given your very unique way of seeing the world given your education your profession - you know we talked very briefly about, finding standing, or people for certain populations and also for elements of the earth systems herself, and ways to interact in a new and different way at a larger scale, I'm curious if you have thoughts or experiences of particularly daunting ways in which the large scale conversation appears to be controlled, and also if you had particularly encouraging pockets? I was very encouraged when you briefly said, “Yeah, we're working on that kind of issue right now, and we'll be doing more of that.” I'm sorry I didn't mean to be asking such a long question. Anything to share in terms of that that control, that I'm trying to point out in multi layers of control at a large scale of our global conversation? Anything that's encouraging about that as well? Take it away.
Inder: I think you're absolutely right, first of all. I think there is, especially, in this country a clamp down on the dialogue, a clamp down on the on the ability to confront the naked reality that's really there. I guess I take hope in the fact that you know that these conversations are happening. It's impossible to cover the truth, I think it really is, and I think when you leave the US and you go to other countries now these conversations are in a much more advanced stage. It's hard for us to see here you know because there's still this “debate”- I don’t mean to put the debate in quotes.
This is something we talked about at Lafayette, in the Q&A, that this is the playbook, the tobacco playbook. A lot of those industries are the carbon producing industries are using this very old playbook, where they're intentionally creating mistrust and doubt as very hard science as to what what's going on. If we had fifty to a hundred years, because that's basically how long it took in the tobacco cases, but if we had that length of time we could use the court systems to uncover all that. The problem is we don't have that time. Courts are very conservative in the sense that they like taking their time, as they should, a lot of the stuff is complex. But, the problem is we're running out of time.
In terms of the hope, I think what we need from the legal profession, inside every lawyer - and this seems hard to see sometimes, inside every lawyer there is an idealist. I think that there are a lot of people who do go to law school for very idealistic reasons and it gets beaten out of them slowly but surely.
There is something that remains that, and I think lawyers are waking up to these challenges. I think as lawyers we can advocate not only in the courts, but also with public opinion. The most successful cases usually combine the two. Usually there is a robust public discourse and dialogue that acts as the foundation for a larger legal maneuver, or larger legal strategy. I think there are techniques where you can bring issues to courts immediately through injunctions or through other kind of classic common law remedies. You can actually ask a court to rule on something very quickly. As a lawyer, the key is to find, look for the pressure point. There's always a pressure point somewhere in the law or with a certain fact pattern.
The key, I think is to take a very Zen approach. If you just take a bunch of people and you slam yourself against the wall you can win over twenty years. We don't have that length of time. So I think we have to, as lawyers, adopt legal strategies that are more Zen and are more like covert ops, where we find the weakness in the wall, and you use a strategy that like that.
That's the high-level kind of thinking that goes into some of the legal research, and maybe on the standing question. I know lawyers are looking hard, the Attorney General of New York is looking hard at some of the science that we just talked about, the climate denialism science, in terms of the doubt that that's been placed in the discourse. I would agree with you that there is a clampdown.
I am optimistic, you can't hide it forever, and I also think that it's enough for us to just do what we can. I think sometimes what's so daunting about all this is knowing that there is a transition that's coming. We don't know how hard of a transition it's going to be, but we know it will be hard in some aspects. I know that good decent people sometimes think that we have to stop it all, or that those lives will be lost. And lives will be lost, that otherwise we wouldn't have died. I think that that's all very true, but I think it's enough for us as sitting here and on November 25th, 201J7 to just do what we can, as long as we're doing what we can.
I think we're doing our best to awaken other people to the reality. I think that's as much as we can do. I don't think we should be plagued by guilt. A lot of this was set in motion well before our time. In the face of this epic struggle ahead we have to find some peace about the fact that we are going to do what we can, and the best we can, but the outcome is really not on our hands. If we can look back and say we did the best we can, I think we've done enough.
Dean: Fair enough. I again am in your court about it. I've been really blessed in my life. I grew up in a very tough environment with alcoholic parents, a tremendous amount of drama to get through. Somehow I've been I was blessed from quite early on with a series of immersions in a state of being, that I've come to call grace.
Now I'm clear I'm not the person who's inventing that word, or coining it, but I've talked enough with some very religious people to know that this is one way that they and I can connect. Many folks who have a lot of religious experience have some exposure to this state of grace. I have never been a religious person, and if anything I've been anti-religion most of my life. But, here I am three years ago starting this book and having many of these impossible conversations along the way; many of them were with evangelicals who are not only religious where I am not, but also anti stewardship of the earth, anti-consciousness about imminent collapse of human and earth systems, not the least of which is climate change.
There's all kinds of reasons why we should just be spinning one another, but in these impossible conversations, in the context that I had created for them, we got to share about exactly the place that you just got to. Which is, in my words some amount of this experience of grace that if we can find a place that place in which we really are soul, or the center of us, our heart to be sure is opened up and is fully present.
So it's a matter not of productivity and getting things done, and being in the business-as-usual paradigm, it is in fact very much on a different end of the spectrum, where those usual outcomes and usual metrics, and usual ways of determining, am I successful in this world, fade away, they gently released. The judgments that are usually with them that have us so polarized in our world also tend to drift away. So here we are, myself and this may be a couple of fundamentalist Christians, or people somehow or another somebody very different than myself, we're having a conversation and we're finding a common ground in a place that I just heard you describing; that place of releasing ourselves from the kind of constructs that we built around ourselves, and call that reality. In releasing that, what we're left with is the quality of our presence in any given moment; that's what I was hearing.
Inder: Yes absolutely right. I think this goes back to something that you mentioned at the very beginning, or that maybe we talked about, which is the daunting challenge that's presented. I think you mentioned that there is this abruptness notion, this notion of abrupt climate change, and this notion that the systems could really change dramatically very quickly. I think we have to put that likelihood on the table, I think that that is a possibility.
I think that in the face of that, how can you not - you know, there is a sense of like freaking out, like a lot of depression. I know people who work on climate science or who are journalists on climate and many of them are depressed and I can't blame them. I mean this can be a very depressing topic. I think it does present fundamentally a spiritual challenge to us, because once you've had that awakening, once you've seen the shadows for what they are, you can't go back. You can try but it's impossible. I think you really have to ask yourself what is my reaction in the face of all this, that I know and accept what is my reaction? I think we have to accept the possibility of complete failure. We can do everything we want and it could be even worse than we think. So I think that that's true.
In yoga there is this notion: you don’t think about the outcome, you're more focused on your work and your labor and the outcome is for the universe to determine, it’s not for us to determine. So it's very helpful to just leave the outcome - we know what the outcomes are, right? Let's leave that aside for the moment and just ask, knowing what we know today, what is our life today look like, what do our choices today look like?
I think that there are plenty of people who are awakening, and who are awakening every day. I think maybe people like you and I or others, scientists who are out there, it's our job to kind of shepherd them through that process to say, “Don't be frightened.”
We can we can try our best and we'll see what happens.
That's the most I think we can do because there is a lot of negative emotion that can arise, and I think that's very natural, but I think it's debilitating. It's not useful, so we should focus on other things.
Part of the old paradigm, what you call the “business-as-usual” paradigm - I like that expression a lot. There is a lot of negative emotion and pressure and expectations; counting your money in the bank account, maybe seeing the numbers go up. I mean that's basically what the goals are. There's already so much negativity that people are coming from, so if nothing else, I feel like for people who are awakening to these challenges it's important to show them a path of a spiritual awakening, like you put it, like we're the blossoming. I think that that's a very important kind of thing, because I think in creating the better future, and creating a possibility of a positive outcome, you and I have to create that wavelength. You and I are creating that wavelength now, and we're inviting other people to join that wavelength, so that there is a possibility of something positive.
Hopefully if enough people do that the the discourse changes, the possibilities change, opportunities arise where there weren't opportunities before, and all of a sudden we see a future that will be different. Don't get me wrong, I mean a lot of these changes are going to happen regardless, but at least there's a possibility of some some type of blossoming and some type of not just survival, but more than survival -- flourishing. That's what we can hope for; I think a flourishing.
Dean: Right, well said! That's a pretty great segue to the work that my creative partner and I - her name is Carolyn Baker; Carolyn is easily the most prolific author that addresses exactly what you and I are talking about. The core question is: who will we be together in the face of these shared global predicaments? Her books are - she's an exquisite writer, and it's really a privilege to be working with her, and we've just been doing our first couple of pilot courses intended to be safe environments for people to have these almost heretical conversations. These are still not conversations to be had, because I think what you and I are talking about is is nothing less than the dismantling of, if not the shredding of our core narrative. Who we are, how we do what we do, America is the greatest because of this, this, this and this…
All of those are getting shredded in the current reality that we're in. So a safe container in which people can can do that dismantling consciously, and also look at rebuilding and reinventing consciously who they are, and who they'll be together. So I'm thrilled that that particular piece is moving forward we're evolving that. I'm also really again, just delighted that you are creating your particular take on how to participate in this reinvention of who we are; our reinvention of our core narrative, which is really what I think it all boils down to. I don't think I'm alone in that.
You really have broken the mold that most of us have for lawyers, you don't think about these kind of things, you don't think about outside of business as usual paradigm, you’re ensconced in the center of business as usual paradigm, and to be reviled for that. So, I think you’ve done an extraordinary job of cracking that mold, and breaking out of it, and creating not just a positive view and positive thinking and so on, but what you just described - that ability, that intention to not just endure or survive the changes that are obviously imminent, but actually to find a way to learn and grow and thrive.
That's literally word-for-word the definition we use when we talk about transformational resilience. There's actually a conference, there's an association that's just started up a couple years ago out of a organization in Eugene, talking about exactly that; transformational resilience and the whole notion of the viewing getting people resilience skills, and adverse childhood experiences based, and trauma based institutions, so that people have some way to have a healing context for this moving forward.
This is where the transformation comes, this is where the thriving comes through is that we have another way of viewing this daunting thing that we're either experiencing right now, or is obviously coming our way.
We started with your talk about Puerto Rico, what better example of a time when we would do well to find those not just resilience skills, but transformational resilience skills; find some ability to thrive in these things that look like they're stacked up to take us down.
Inder: That's 100% true, and I want to unpack a lot of what you said there too. So one of the things is this notion of trauma being a source of power, or being able to thrive because of the trauma, the trauma adding something: a possibility of greater transformation that comes through the trauma. I think that's right, I think that is a teaching and a philosophy that we should really explore and really encourage in terms of developing that, because there is going to be a lot of trauma.
I'm talking about people losing their homes, I'm talking about climate refugees. There's a study I read just a couple weeks ago that talked about two billion refugees by the end of the century moving because of climate, because of rising seas, because of hurricanes, fires. Everything is going to be challenged. Every daily aspect of our lives going to be a challenge.
The problem is that our governments are not prepared for this, and in fact especially our government, the current government is doing what it can to kind of stick its head in the ground in a lot of ways.
There is going to be a rude awakening, so to speak, for a lot of people, there is going to be a lot of trauma. I think something that we can develop in the last perhaps waning years of stability, of real stability that we’ll look back on and say, “What a stable time”, I think we can start preparing ourselves psychologically and philosophically and spiritually with these types of philosophies and doctrines as vehicles to help us get through these transitional years that are, I think, have already started. I love what you said about that, and I think that stuff is very important.
The other comment I wanted to talk about was just like the lawyers, and I know you're right. I know that we have a very bad reputation, I know that. But, I think part of the reason we have such a bad reputation is that lawyers are powerful; we are trained how to speak, how to argue, and how to present positions.
Unfortunately too many people use those talents as hired guns for whatever position. I think there is a lot of rightful cynicism about the profession. But, I do want to reiterate that I think that in a lot of lawyers there was, and there is still a closet idealist. I think part of what I'm hoping to do as a lawyer is speak to my profession, and speak to other lawyers, and remind them of that and say, “You know we have these talents, and we have these skills that we've been cultivating and honing. We're important members of this movement, of this army that can really make a big difference, if we were to shift things”. Part of what I'm doing through the nonprofit is set up programs with law schools.
This has been brought to me, but I haven't cultivated it yet, but part of what I'm thinking about doing is laying out or writing more about career opportunities for lawyers. As a lawyer, as many young professionals face today, there's a mountain of debt that you have to work through. There's a mountain of just - rents are sky high, the possibility of family, of having children; these things have been priced out for a lot of young professionals who are in their 20s coming out of university and law school.
I know one reaction is to say, “I'm just gonna do what I've been told to do, and trained to do, and enter this system and not think about anything else”. But I think what I could do for example, as someone who's built an alternative career path, is to show people that there are alternatives, that you can you can live and eat and make a comfortable life for yourself, while also doing things that you're passionate about.
One of the things that I remind myself every day is that, historically speaking, I live like a king. I have access to running water, I have clean food that I can eat, this health care - I mean it's expensive but there's healthcare, if I get sick I won't die of an infection. These are these are things that humans have struggled with for hundreds of thousands of years. It's really the last hundred years that we live like a king, better than a king would have lived like 100 years ago.
Knowing that I have this stability, knowing that I have these comforts historically that are really unprecedented, why should I participate in this constant mind game that I need more, and more, and more; that there's a certain career that I have to build for myself that's been foisted on me by expectations? Using the historic comforts that I have I can build a completely different career, and really create some good at a time in which people like me, and other lawyers, maybe we're needed more than ever. That's part of what I'm hoping to do with a nonprofit as well: is maybe not preach to the choir, but preach to people who should join the choir.
Dean: I'm noticing that- my eyes are drawn up to what I've got on the screen here, it's the last the last sentence of your talk at Lafayette College. If I may, you're talking about what really appears to be the calling of these times. We obviously have choices, we always have choices. Some of the default choices could be to just continue with business as usual, and bury our heads down and noses to the grindstone and and not do anything of particular value as we face the imminent collapse of systems. But, you of course are talking about something else: a different choice.
You talk about our children do not demand of us that we succeed in this effort but they are entitled to demand of us with that we try. You know that this isn't the first time I've heard these words, but I've got to say, Inder that your particular way of putting words and thoughts and and notions together there. You have a remarkable ability to again, just crack out of that which is otherwise debilitating mold of your profession. You've allowed your heart to come through in such a potent way. I'm wondering if you could orient the folks who are watching to how can they find more of your writing how can they find some of these notions that you've laid out so beautifully in your blog, and so on. Can you give us some information?
Inder: There's two websites I can point them to:
One is Just Atonement which is justatonement.org, and that's the legal nonprofit that I've set up, and that I've referenced, the other is my personal website which is InderComar.com. That's where I'm posting a lot of the speaking series and the talks that I'm giving, where I'm gonna start posting those directly there, and what I'm making that website for.
InderComar.com is oriented really towards three different audiences; one as I think - and both are oriented towards this awakening that I've talked about, this kind of satori moment the Japanese would say - in Zen there is this notion that you can have an insight and your whole life changes.
The website is geared towards three different audiences; one is young professionals, so people who are just leaving University, just leaving graduate school, wondering what they're going to do. I wanted to lay out a framework for them, because we need those people and I think the system has treated those people so unfairly, I think it's saddled them with debt, I think it's saddled them with so many unrealistic expectations, really deprived them of economic opportunities. They've done everything that they “were supposed to do”, and they they come out with very little opportunity. So I want to reach those people and tell them, “Join these efforts, do this instead. Figure out a way where your talents can be used in a way that can push the world in a better direction.”
The second is what I would call transitioning professionals: people who've been in corporate America doing traditional business work for them. They've reached their own moment somehow, like me, wondering what is - and like you it sounded like as well. I want to reach those people because they're struggling also with answers or questions. I want to lay out a path for them.
The third I think is corporate and business and government leaders, and suggest to them that the big group that we're going to need is our leaders. We need our leaders to provide leadership and that's sounds like a silly thing to say; but you know every walk of life, any business, everywhere you look there's a real vacuum of a vision, and a real vacuum of leadership in terms of where the world needs to be going, and what the challenges are that need to be addressed.
I want to be able to provide some type of advice to those people. They can help in their own way in terms of providing a vision to us who are looking to them to help us. So I'll be putting writings and I'm blogging there every day putting links to the talks that I'm giving, so if people are interested in those types of things they visit that website. I think that those are the places I would point to people, and my hope is that we can build a movement.
I think the science is dire. I think we are already in the process of systemic challenge and possible collapse. I think that process has already been begun, and I think there is the possibility of complete and utter failure, so those things are all on the table. I think, like you mentioned the last sentence of the Lafayette talk, this is ethical and a challenge for us.
I think if we if we are a species that is worth saving, that if we are a species that deserves to have our moment on this earth continue, we have to reach another level of development with our consciousness that requires us to to become more pacific, and to use dialogue and to work together, and to become real guardians of this consciousness on the earth.
We've talked about climate change a lot but the other thing in the background is the extinction that we're going through, the mass extinction event that's related. Scientists have declared this the the sixth great extinction in our geological history. That is a stunning indictment of us as a species and our inability to act as real guardians for the other forms of life on this earth.
You talked about - it's interesting, I haven't had as many conversations with religious groups, as perhaps you have, but you know in the Bible, humans are the stewards of the earth. In every religious tradition there's this concept that we are the stewards, so this should be something that resonates with the religious people amongst us. The fact of the matter is that even if climate change wasn't an issue, obviously it is, and if somehow we developed some magical technology that removed all the carbon from the air, it wouldn't change the fact that 90% of the species that are alive today may not be alive. That's another problem.
The root of all these problems is us, and and something in us, and I think there is definitely a component of greed that I think we have to really kind of learn to master the greed that is a natural phenomenon, we have to learn to master that as humans.
The ignorance that we have about about the world, the hatreds that we carry: these are real, these are the challenges. I think the big one right now is greed.
Part of the problem is we've created systems where we let the greedy take what they will with very little control and this is the result.
We have to approach the greedy and we have to sit with them and we have to figure out a way, and get them to realize that, you know, they don't have to be so greedy. There's enough for everyone on this earth, there really is there is no shortage of abundance on the earth, but there is if we let the greedy in charge, there won't be enough for everybody.
I think those are the real challenges, and I think those fundamentally are inner challenges. If we want to see peace here on the outside we have to start building the peace on the inside. I think when we do that, the whole world starts to change from out of us.
These are the things that I think we have to start talking to other lawyers about, talking to corporate leaders about because they are very educated cultivated people, but there's a side of their education that is missing. We bring this education in and I think you could really start to see some very important crucial changes that could permit a more positive outcome in the next hundred years.
Dean: Well again, I'm with you. If I could just share my version, the short version of what you just laid out so beautifully, is I kept asking myself the question ‘what got us here?’ while I was writing the book and and doing the research, what got us here? Why? What? Always the answer came back in some version or another of we disconnected.
We've disconnected from deeper self, we disconnected from each other, we disconnected from from the earth. When it when I could distill it down to that simple nodule, and a little gold nugget in the center, I could then start to look at if not the business-as-usual way of being that is clearly suicidal and ecocidal, then what? It made it a bit easier for me, a bit simpler to be able to say, “If not that, then reconnection.”
If I orient the practices there's a story from a dear friend that describes to approach, to face these daunting spiritual challenges, these imminent massive stressors, to face these things without a set of spiritual practices in our lives is as foolish as running into a forest fire wearing nothing but a paper tutu. Part of what Carolyn Baker and I are putting together in our in our line of work is to create not only those safe environments, but also to suggest a robust set of practices that people form for themselves, that are based exclusively on addressing their disconnection in their lives.
How can I reconnect with my inner wisdom with my sensitivities, how can I connect with other people in the deep and hopefully profound way, how can I reconnect with the earth which is so desperately - I'm so desperately far from?
So Inder I really just want to thank you so much for this first of what I hope is a series of talks over time. I so thank you for creating the life that you've created, the beauty that you obviously have created by cracking out of the usual look and feel of a corporate oriented lawyer, and so on. Your heart just comes out streaming through your work, through your writings that I've been able to read. I think that the populations that you were just describing, that you're going to be continuing to do talks for, and presentations for, and work with, they are blessed to have you so as we have been blessed of you today. So thank you so much for spending time.
Inder: Thank you so much Dean, it was a real pleasure. It sounds like we're all very aligned I think at a deep level, and I think that's all we - you know I look forward to continue the dialogue. I think that's what we should be doing is just building that shared wavelength. I think that that really can make a huge difference. It was a real pleasure to be here, thanks a lot Dean.
Dean: Thanks for joining us here on another episode of the Poetry of Predicament. Our guest today Inder Comar, hope to have him back many times.