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Part 4: Is Pronoia Just for Rich, Comfortable People?

(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

Many people passionately believe that civilization is in an appalling state. They don't even want to hear about pronoia. Any evidence I might present to them about the abundance of beauty and blessings is viewed as perverse and treacherous.

It's dangerous to do so, they feel, because it threatens to make us complacent and fall under the delusion that our work as freedom fighters is done.

Celebrating progress is a foolish indulgence that would sap our motivation to keep agitating for even greater justice.

Focusing on the good stuff tempts us to ignore the continuing bad stuff.

I understand that position. It's the stance of many devoted activists who have a ferocious devotion to the extinction of suffering. I respect their work and am rooting them on.

But I'd also like to suggest that there are alternate ways to wage the war on stupidity, violence, and tyranny.


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

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

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


In the late 1990s, environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill spent two years living in a redwood tree she named "Luna." Her goal was to save it from being cut down by a logging company.

She succeeded both literally and mythically. Luna was spared from death, as was a surrounding three-acre swath of trees. Hill became an inspiring symbol of artful, compassionate protest.

Later she told Benjamin Tong in the DVD The Taoist and the Activist: "So often activism is based on what we are against, what we don't like, what we don't want. And yet we manifest what we focus on. And so we are manifesting yet ever more of what we don't want, what we don't like, what we want to change. So for me, activism is about a spiritual practice as a way of life. And I realized I didn't climb the tree because I was angry at the corporations and the government; I climbed the tree because when I fell in love with the redwoods, I fell in love with the world. So it is my feeling of 'connection' that drives me, instead of my anger and feelings of being disconnected."


Read Part One of the series.

Read Part Two of the series.

Read Part Three of the series.
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