The Fifth Element – Illuminating the Shadows

Lake Petén Itzá - El Remate, Guatemala, 2015. Photo by JJM.

Lake Petén Itzá – El Remate, Guatemala. Photo by JJM (2015).

 *For background on the Mayan Fifth World and the Fifth Element, please see: The Maya World Tree



The Fifth Element

Five years have passed since December 2012; we are five years into the Mayan Fifth World and the Fifth Element has entered the scene. We are in a new age of transparency and below-the-surface shadows are bound to be illuminated while submerged debris is likely to float to the top. Whatever is hidden may be exposed and the only way to deal with this alchemical process, is to put one’s own inner house in order.

While there are people who have already been introspecting by way of traditional or spiritual practices, serious self-observation or deeper inner reflection may be something relatively new to others. However, as time passes, not exposing one’s true self will become increasingly difficult. This may be positive news for people who already live from their authentic selves, while it could turn out to be a somewhat uncomfortable experience for those who have not yet discovered or have not developed their intrinsic individual identity – and who do not live from their higher selves. 

Typically, individuals and groups who avoid facing their inner shadow-sides, tend to project them onto others. The objective of doing that is to divert attention away from their lower selves and what they are up to. This is a well-know psychological phenomenon. However, in an age of added transparency such projections would be much more obvious. As one finger points at others, three fingers point back. This causes emperors to wear no clothes by exposing themselves, while insisting on remaining oblivious of the fact. 

Continue to: The Fifth World

This is the first part of a ‘miniseries’ – an article published in parts.

Related: The Shift of the Stages

J.J. Montagnier is an intuitive creative writer. He is a student of mythology, ancient cultures, philosophy, psychology, sociology, politics and metaphysics. His writings are inspired and influenced by his world travels, personal observations, intuitive insights and deep study of relevant and related subject matter.

Choose Conscience

Choose Peace Through Conscience

Peace Mural, Belfast, N. Ireland (2004). Archive photo by JJM.

When faced with difficult choices, especially amongst bad options, conscience can always show the way. Needless to say, what the planet needs right now, more than ever, is a return to conscience. Conscience lends itself to a variety of peaceful solutions.

Moral relativity does not fit well into the realm of a well developed and active conscience. Conscience intuitively knows the difference between right and wrong. What is appropriate or correct within a given context or what is not. What is creative and what is destructive. What is life-giving and what is life-killing. What is nurturing and what is eroding. What is authentically (not superficially) progressive and what is truly regressive.

Not all situations call for distinctions to be made, but when they do, a healthy conscience would normally step in automatically. Of course, conscience interacts with ethics, etiquette, morality, religion and other frameworks for rules of conduct, but personal conscience can and does act autonomously, and will override externally imposed morality, where necessary. As long as conscience is maintained, conscience is the only inner guiding system which has almost full  independence and autonomy. It is independent from the ego-self and the group-self and it is autonomous in prompting one to correct one’s course.

Conscience will override questionable morals and will adjust approaches and actions accordingly. Conscience is an autonomous guidance system within, whereas morals depend on customs and norms without. The more relative morals become in a society as a whole, the more consciousness dims collectively and the more unconscious society becomes as a group. It is during such times that inner conscience is especially needed to guide individuals.

Only a very small percentage of individuals are born without any conscience at all – and they are considered to be “disabled” (psychologically), meaning that they don’t have the full range of emotions and feelings that would usually be accessible to the average person. They are also unlikely to ever develop (a) conscience. Other than these exceptions, conscience holds much more universality than ethics or morals do, and therefore we would be much better off aspiring to universal conscience than universal morals or ethics. A healthy conscience leads to expanded consciousness on an individual level, which is expressed on a universal level.

The small percentage of conscience-less (without conscience) individuals we find in society are naturally the proverbial  “foxes” as described in the Chicken Little fable (See Parts 5 & 7) and we find them in all walks of life. However, there is a significant percentage of average individuals who eventually revert to similar behaviors after having lost (or given up) their consciences as they went along. Very often a conscious decision was made to do so, in order to gain certain advantages. The nature of conscience itself does not allow for it to be given up unconsciously, so the suppression of conscience is certainly a conscious process initially and subsequently the decision is swiftly put out of mind and henceforth avoided at all costs.

If the majority of individuals in a society learn to suppress their conscience – to the extent that a general moral relativity sets in – and once the virtues of conscience are lost by adults in general, they are unlikely to be instilled, cultivated or strengthened within children either. When a society has more “foxes” than “chickens”, parasitism, prejudice, projection, exploitation, bigotry, double standards, hypocrisy, abuse of power, corruption and the active destruction of old value systems ensue and a general regression leading to potential repression sets in. A strong accompanying feature of such a scenario is often decadence.

It has been determined that historically mass decadence (and sometimes war) has almost always preceded the collapse of civilizations. In other words, the idea of the destruction of values on the basis of them being “old fashioned” or “conservative” in order to facilitate decadence (boundary-less living) often have unintended consequences, because all systems need structure in order to function, externally and (importantly) internally – structure being what value systems are meant to provide in societies and civilizations. No limits, no restrictions, no boundaries, means no structure, which results in a vacuum. In a big enough vacuum, collapse is inevitable.

Therefore, going forward, decisions and choices based on conscience may be the only available tool to rescue (individuals in) a declining civilization from internal (and external) collapse. Conscience can save individuals, and in the present day context, the world.

By JJ Montagnier

Building the New World Within (11) – Happy Go Lucky – Faster!

"Fried Grey Matter"

“Fried Grey Matter” – Street Art, Montevideo, Uruguay. Photograph by JJM.


It’s All Theatre

Tabloid press, reality TV, TV talk shows, social networking and, perhaps, increasingly also, modern-day politics have all got something in common – they contain similar ingredients to those found in soap operas. A trademark of soap opera is that the less exemplary elements of human behaviour are exaggerated and dramatised for effect. A hallmark of the tabloid press is the use of emotional and sensational language which draws readers into the drama.

Gossip and the lives of others had always been of interest to people, but tabloids converted sideshows into the main show. This growing preoccupation spread into other mediums, too, and eventually it went well beyond the lives of only the officially rich and famous. Despite, perhaps, a few protestations to the contrary, those designated as celebrities hardly shy away from being in the limelight. As the saying goes: “All publicity is good publicity”, and over time being famous has taken on major significance in modern societies.

By introducing “real-life” elements into the mix, reality TV took the soap opera concept a step further. Selected members of the public could now become famous, too. They would brush shoulders with genuine celebrities and, just like them, have large audiences observe and follow their every move. Taking a cue, perhaps, from soap opera, participants could spice up and dramatise their actions and activities for effect, bringing greater audiences and improved ratings with regard to the shows and themselves.

In these shows, participants were becoming adept at promoting themselves by sometimes being outrageous, controversial or provocative. Audiences were lapping it up and learning from it, too. Reality TV was hugely popular for its novelty value at first but, in due course, the concept influenced and was blended in with various other genres. Some of these shows, at least to a small extent, contain(ed) educational elements such as the celebrity chefs series. A particular type of TV talk show – which came to be known as “Trash TV” – preceded reality TV by a couple of decades already and was based on outrage creation and stirring up animosity amongst participants.

Initially, as with the tabloid genre which slowly spread around the world, not everyone considered the depiction of the lowest common denominator on television as being optimum entertainment. Many viewers actively avoided soap opera, trash TV and reality TV. The majority of professionals preferred to continue reading their broadsheets and magazines. Likewise, discerning television viewers continued to opt for quality TV programmes. On the other hand, more than enough readers and viewers were becoming eager consumers of dramatised and sensationalised entertainment and news media.

That humans have always been intrigued by the weird, the outlandish and the obscure is not in doubt, and an apt analogy would be that the modern-day version of “freak shows” increasingly came to town in some of these shows on a screen and in a newspaper near you. In the press, the tabloid media formula continued to spread and, eventually, even organisations once-known as conservative and well-established news publications adopted the model or blended it in.

Tabloid newspapers had already been using “tabloid headlines” for decades to prompt people to buy the paper. The “tabloid language” used in news content contained special “tabloid vocabulary” (short, emotional and ambiguous key words) to create intrigue which draws readers into the emotional drama. These days, online tabloid-style headlines are referred to as “click-bait”.

Slowly – but surely – the “tabloidification” of close to the whole spectrum of mass media has come about, and it is more or less standard fare today. Although many people grumbled over the loss of quality reportage during the process, consumer interest in serious news media has dwindled along with the quality. Those interested in in-depth analyses and serious factual reporting have to make the effort to seek out alternative news channels; however, the majority of people, it seems, are unlikely to make the effort.

Switching Channels

In the meantime, people’s attention and interest were being occupied elsewhere. Social networking platforms had been around for a while already and were growing exponentially. Here, potential celebrity status and the possibility of becoming famous were taken to a whole new level – perhaps to “the ultimate level”. These platforms offered the ability to achieve (small-scale) “fame” almost instantaneously. Members of the public were provided with their own broadcasting channels. Prior to that, only the few who had made it onto reality TV or TV talk shows had such opportunities – except for those (including sports stars) who had become real celebrities either through traditional methods or by pure luck.

It’s Showtime!

Given the already strong craving from the general public for fame, the arrival of social networking was like opium to the masses. Everyone could now generate their own audiences in a variety of ways and be in charge of their own public image campaigns. By enhancing social media profiles and sometimes by presenting themselves in dramatised ways by being sensational and provocative, instantaneous feedback would arrive and audiences would grow. It was showtime for everyone!

Soon, “being relevant” socially would be measured by – or associated with – having a strong social media presence or not.  Those who were not on social media were considered to be  almost invisible, or they essentially “did not exist”. Not everybody wanted fame, but hardly anyone wanted to be “irrelevant” either – and this remains true today. Therefore, the motivation for participating in social media and social networking was and always has been very powerful. For many, being in the loop and having access to current social events supersede almost everything else, despite the potential side effects of possible overexposure.

While older members of society can clearly remember these still relatively recent changes, younger people who grew up with technology and self-promotion have no other reference points. That narcissism has become rife is, therefore, not necessarily considered a problem, but rather an essential element for functioning optimally within society’s current social (media) paradigm. Neither is the drop in the quality of news necessarily perceived as a big issue, because a lot of news is delivered by “citizen journalists” through social media which, of course, does have its merits.

The downside is that news feeds on social networking platforms blend real news with social news. Everything happens in “real” time, is treated equally and, due to an avalanche of information, is usually soon forgotten. There’s not much time to read beyond headlines either way and even if there were, the loss of quality news reporting virtually across the board means that the wider context and background or comprehensive understanding and insights are rarely covered.

Life was Hard

Let us contrast receiving constant feedback online with life offline, where feedback (for living your life normally) is not only not guaranteed but is generally lacking, except for feedback from family members and close friends. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why “life as it used to be” (before social networking) was perceived as being hard. Having to go through life on one’s own is somewhat of an alienating experience for many people. It is not surprising then that a medium such as social networking would be eagerly embraced.

Social media removes the possibility or necessity of having to be alone or lonely – ever. On the other hand, it leads to becoming dependent on constant support, affirmation and validation. Having so much – often artificial or superficial – support could provide plasters for basic insecurities, which would usually have had to be worked on within, personally and privately, with limited external support.

Internal strengthening processes can essentially only happen in relative isolation by, for example, becoming accustomed to dealing with negative thoughts or feelings privately. For example, where personal growth is required, introspection would identify the areas in which that would need to happen. Various approaches can then be followed, from reading on the subject to purposeful exposure to relevant real-life situations and circumstances with post-event reflection, which would then further consolidate resolution and growth.

A somewhat hard life – along with an independent struggle – is a necessary requirement for becoming emotionally self-sufficient and for developing a strong individual identity. Reaching full maturity in terms of full personal autonomy and wholeness is a lifetime’s process and requires ongoing conscious self-evaluation.

By being digitally connected at all times, continuous external support is never lacking and the time for deep self-reflection is reduced. In many ways, life’s direct harshness is filtered out. One could rightfully ask: “Who wouldn’t want that?” The result is that this unfortunately translates into many people unwittingly developing co-dependencies with their electronic devices and the remote feedback they receive through them, where such dependencies didn’t exist before.

Self-sufficiency and Autonomy

Traditionally, we used to share our successes and important personal events with family members or close friends. Constantly laying our lives bare to general acquaintances or complete strangers is a phenomenon particular to the social networking realm.  Being capable of living our lives independently, largely without much recognition at all, used to be a measure of being a mature adult in the world. This used to be “the burden of reality” which we all had to carry after entering adulthood, but it naturally instilled a sense of self-responsibility which resulted in self-confidence.

You had to get on with life and excel in it without being able to bask in constant accolades. Most of the time, your only reward was an inner sense of self-achievement, despite the odds. People were not overly concerned (or obsessed) with the lives of others. They were too busy making it in the real world just like everyone else, and society had little sympathy for perceived victimhood. Life was hard for virtually everyone, and you were expected to take the lemons you were handed and make lemonade with them.

Autonomous functioning was usually drummed into children from a relatively young age by parents who understood what the real world would hold once their kids were ‘”out there”. Thus, most parents avoided sheltering their children too much. Depending on the country or region, this changed over time as giving constant praise and providing unlimited support became a new model. The expectation and need for constant validation and affirmation that we witness today, not only amongst children and teenagers but well into adulthood, can at least partially be ascribed to this approach.

Ironically, the previous generations succumbed to the reorientation of parenting models and child-rearing in contradiction to all the experience, knowledge and wisdom that they had attained through how they were raised. Having said that, there is no doubt that many in the older generations thought that their childhoods had been unduly harsh. Indeed, a well-known reason cited by parents for having spoiled their children or for not having challenged them more is that they wanted to spare their kids the hard upbringings that they themselves had to go through. However, raising children in an unstructured way may well pave the way to societal decay, as can be observed today. [1]

Recognition and Instant Fame

Before the idea of fame became so interwoven into modern society, instant fame was an exceptional event. People were too grounded in reality to consider it important or to spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing it. It was potentially achievable (people dreamed about it back then, too), but was dependent on extraordinary natural talent, out-of-the-ordinary circumstances or a major lucky break. Recognition within one’s job sector was easier to attain. Working hard, earning your dues and fighting for recognition; developing your professional skills and honing them; becoming a master of your arts; building up experience and real-life connections and eventually becoming a real expert in your field usually led to well-earned recognition from peers.

Not unlike today, celebrity status usually came about within certain entertainment sectors such as cinema, television, fashion, the music industry and theatre. Being attractive was advantageous or was even the main requirement in some instances. Even so, these sectors were relatively small and difficult to break into. The possibility of a lucky break into the celebrity arena, therefore, had a powerful and enticing appeal. Nevertheless, for the most part the average citizen knew that it remained a far-fetched notion, reserved mainly for daydreaming.

New Show in Town

Cue social media where almost all obstacles were removed. “Instant fame” could now be attained within a couple of hundred mouse clicks, even by teenagers – perhaps, especially by teenagers. Of course, this type of “fame” might have been relatively lightweight, but for the ego it was (and is) fame nonetheless. With no barriers to entry, except for knowing how to use the internet, and with the motivation brought about by the knowledge that “everyone’s at it”, having a significant online presence became for many people almost the only way of feeling that they were relevant. It is, indeed, true that young people are often ostracised from their real-life social circles should they not also participate online. [2][iv]

The problem is that without having fully formed real-world identities before that process is transferred online, identity development is transferred to, and continues in, an environment where different rules are at play and where the dynamics lean strongly towards the narcissistic.

Changing Frequencies

In the digital age, many children report that they feel emotionally neglected at times, specifically due to their parents being distracted by their personal devices. Paradoxically,  children do not spend sufficient time alone with themselves either (within safe environments) due to the constant presence of their mobile devices. [3]

Considering this context, attention-seeking strategies and habits are prone to be developed beyond what would usually be the norm. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that children often revert to their computers or Smartphones to seek out compensating validation and affirmation through self-promotion on the internet. When the online social media world becomes a regular source of emotional feedback, it can become a crutch to lean on at an early age.

Older people who had moved online later in life, but who spend excessive time acting out their online persona(s), risk experiencing a sense of loss of a part of their real or authentic self, even when they had a strong sense of self prior to their online lives.  Due to neglect, the authentic-self may eventually recede into the background while the online persona(s) come more to the fore.

In an ideal world – one that already exists, but one that many people have left behind – children would have a combination of sufficient direct unfiltered emotional input from their parents, but they would also spend sufficient unfiltered time on their own, in order to figure themselves out for themselves. In such an ideal world, adults would balance their online and offline worlds in order to not lose track of their core individual selves nor their loved ones.

Social Media and the Persona

In the traditional and real world of direct human interactions, you can boost your persona only so much. Although pretence and vanity are tolerated in small measures, people tend to see through them rather quickly. During face-to-face interactions, a certain level of legitimacy is required, and continuous superficiality is counterproductive towards fostering authentic and genuine long-term interpersonal relationships.

In the social networking realm, persona-enhancing is the whole idea. Different rules of legitimacy are at play, such as social proof and group association, and the vast majority of people don’t know each other beyond their avatars. If most interpersonal interactions happen online these days, it can be easily deduced that real-life character development has taken a major back seat. Persona-polishing and avatar-enhancing, for which no amount of time seems to be excessive, are the norm.

Posers and Followers

Offline, we do not post notes on the windows of our homes to announce what we are up to inside. Neither do we stick notes on our car windows to announce where we are going and what we are going to do there. We also do not add additional notes to our windows to provide updates. If that were the case, we would not be able to see through our windows. Peering closely into people’s lives (“windows”) in real life would certainly be frowned upon. Yet, following the minutiae of people’s lives online, which they willingly display, is completely acceptable.

Exhibitionism and voyeurism are human tendencies that reside in everyone. They may be given expression outside the online realm at times, but generally they tend to remain relatively dormant, hidden or suppressed due to natural societal expectations. However, in the social networking sphere these elements are given the opportunity for full expression, albeit in an altered format but within a framework of it being completely normalised. Where narcissistic exhibitionist tendencies were always discouraged in the real world, the opposite is true in the social media sphere.

Virtual “posers” and “followers” can now post notes on their own interactive tabloid press pages (virtual “windows”), while their counterparts and “online passersby” follow their news and updates. Posers and followers take both roles interactively while keeping multiple interactions going with other followers, posers and passersby. Validations and affirmations are exchanged for small changes made to profile statuses, and everyone keeps the dance going.

It is usually only when the dancing stops (or slows down) that inevitable withdrawal symptoms set in and replenishing efforts start up soon afterwards, either consciously or unconsciously. These enhanced mutual-affirmation emotional feedback-loops tend to eventually become integral for daily functioning.

Happy Chemicals

We rarely think about the technical functions or elements of our minds, but continuously working in the background are brain chemicals and hormones which act as influencers and drivers. They interact with our emotions and also produce physiological reactions and sensations. Some of these neurotransmitters and hormones are known as “happy chemicals” because of the way they make us feel when they are activated. No wonder then that we seek them out. Not only do we seek them out, but we tend to do so repetitively in habit-forming ways. Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle can most probably, to a degree, be ascribed to this phenomenon.

Happy-Go-Lucky Faster

The greatest positive advantage of the internet is that we have information at our fingertips and if we are discerning and selective enough, the internet can be hugely beneficial. A case in point is the multitude of resources available on brain chemicals and how they function, which fills in the picture and shines a light into some of our blind spots.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that (amongst other things) has a motivational function which  causes us to experience anticipation for what we need or would like to achieve in life. This results in us striving towards our objectives. We are then mobilised to act decisively in pursuing our interests and in seeking them out. Dopamine is released as soon as we close in on our subject or our goal. During long-term projects, dopamine would be released shortly before each stage or milestone is reached, and this would drive the person forward to the next stage until the project is completed. [a, b, c]

Th internal opioid system works in conjunction with dopamine and provides the feel-good satisfaction of a job well done after completion (of each stage) or the pleasure experienced after finding something you were looking for. [b]

However, we can get additional dopamine and opioid rewards (and get them faster) from frequent social networking updates. For example, milestones can become the amount of shares, likes or “friends” that we accumulate and going after more milestones keeps us going. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that (amongst other things) motivates us to improve our position or status in life through a sense of wanting recognition, respect or appreciation; receiving positive feedback from role models, superiors or peers builds confidence – and confidence releases serotonin. For example, building up credibility within a community through authentic actions and interactions would be worthwhile because subsequent natural positive feedback would be the result (as explored in Part 8). [a, b,e]

In terms of personal growth, the objective would usually be to reach a stage where a person’s self-worth is solid enough to go through life without expecting or needing excessive validation or feedback. In other words, by having a natural sense of one’s intrinsic qualities and real-life achievements and successes, one’s serotonin levels remain elevated and are produced organically (intrinsically).

However, we can get additional serotonin rewards (and get them faster) from receiving instant positive feedback by frequently posting about our achievements online. Even posting about trivial matters, such as what we are doing or eating in the moment,would provide feedback.

Oxytocin is a hormone which (amongst other things) motivates us to seek out the company of people we can trust in order to bond with them. We are, therefore, motivated to seek out like-minded people and groups. When entering groups in real life, it usually takes time to be fully accepted or incorporated, but once accepted we would regularly receive our oxytocin rewards which are experienced as a ense of belonging and of being part of a group.

When one-to-one friendships or relationships form over time, they usually reach a point where there is enough trust for both parties to drop their guard and to relax into it; at that point, a bond is formed. Oxytocin is released, and it will be released regularly whenever the two persons subsequently meet or connect – for as long as the mutual trust lasts. [a, b, e].

However, we can get additional oxytocin rewards (and get them easier and faster) by joining online groups; we can then support their causes or can “virtue-signal” a group that we are “one of them”.

Adrenalin is a hormone that has to do with fight or flight, but can motivate us to see stressful situations through. For example, an adrenalin rush during a stressful exam can provide the energy and motivation to keep a clear head and get through it. Although adrenalin is usually linked to fear, it can cause a rush which many people experience as pleasure when it is triggered in a controlled environment. For example, to relieve boredom and to feel alive, people would often seek out controlled adrenalin rushes. The most co-mmon would be extreme sports such as bungee jumping or skydiving. Aggressive direct physical or emotional confrontations would also release adrenalin, but are avoided due to the real possibility of their resulting in physical harm due to negative feedback. [e]

However, adrenalin rushes can also be found remotely (fast, frequently and safely) through online gaming, online trolling and (in more extreme cases) by participating in “online lynching”.[iv,v]


As we know, external drugs, such as nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and others, overstimulate brain chemicals, but so do online gaming, social media and social networking –just somewhat differently. “Happy chemicals” such as dopamine, opioids, serotonin and oxytocin are not designed to be “always on”, but with the advent of mobile devices they are rarely switched off. [f]

“It’s All Good”

Sometimes, any feedback can become “good feedback” with the differentiation between it being positive or negative having faded out. In such cases, “feedback is feedback” because it is the stimulation that the user is after. The need for kicks means that negative feedback can be a substitute for positive feedback and is often easier to obtain. For example, being controversial, shocking and insulting in forums or on social networking tends to trigger stronger responses at a higher rate, which would explain why some people troll. [v]

This is corroborated by research done in Japan which identified a subset of dopamine neurons which are stimulated by negative feedback instead of positive feedback. [4]

“More is Better”

A common feature of spending time on the internet is that people spend more time on it than they intend to. This has to do with the dopamine and opioid mix. Dopamine motivates seeking behaviour, and opioids provide the rewards when finding what the seeker is looking for. However, research has found that the dopamine-motivated seeking behaviour is stronger than the opiate-provided rewards. [b]

Sometimes, people browse aimlessly for hours, looking for something without knowing what it is that they are looking for. Nothing they come across satisfies them sufficiently to stop browsing, only to eventually succumb to the urge to go offline once sufficient browsing-fatigue has set in. Due to the vast amount of information and content on the web, there is always more to find and (so the thinking goes), potentially, something better.

However, browsing social networking platforms excessively tends to have the effect of either comparing oneself with others (potentially resulting in low self-esteem) or of being drawn into some kind of drama playing off on it (which then triggers negative emotions and reactions).

Mobile Pinball Arcades

In the past, when a person left the shopping mall, the casino or the pinball arcade, for example, they gave their minds a rest. Besides, they only went there once in a while except if, perhaps, they had become somewhat addicted to shopping or gambling. Even so, they would not have been present at those places every waking moment of their day. Presently, life offline literally pales in comparison to life enhanced by the always-on mobile “pinball arcades” that an increasing number of people – perhaps, the majority – carry around with them.

Bouncing off the Walls

Feelings, emotions, sensations, affirmations, validations, laughs, jokes, jealousy, envy, blaming and shaming, anger and outrage (!), trolling and online-lynching – virtual theatre provides it all … and it’s just a touch-screen away. The intense emotional highs and lows experienced remotely through screens have our brain chemicals (constantly) “bouncing off the walls”.

Not Such a Happy Chemical

Not all brain chemicals have a feel-good effect. Cortisol, for example, produces negative feelings naturally and there is a reason for it. If we were euphoric at all times, we would become reckless. And so, the “unhappy chemical” is meant to bring us down to earth as a survival mechanism.

According to psychologist, Loretta Breuning (Ph.D.), unhappy feelings produced by cortisol are always present, but are masked by “happy chemicals”[a]. That is why we sometimes experience negative thoughts at random times. When our happy chemicals dip, the unhappy chemical filters through. The implication is that the less we are able to deal with unhappy thoughts, the more we may want to seek out happy-chemical rewards so they can mask the negative feelings or sensations. (There are, of course, cases where people have brain-chemical deficits or imbalances which would usually be resolved through prescribed medication – but those are the exceptions, not the rule.)

The purpose of the cortisol-induced negative feelings and thoughts that come through at times is to “send information” or “give a message” so that we can reflect upon what the message is and then potentially make adjustments to certain courses of action. According to Ms Breuning, if these messages or impulses are ignored or not paid attention to, more cortisol is released by the brain, typically causing the person to overcompensate even more by going after more happy chemicals. [a]

If we never learn how to take the time to deal with negative thoughts or feelings, because we are never away from our devices (in the case of younger people) or if we have fallen out of practice for the same reason, compulsive happy-chemical-seeking is a very possible outcome.


Social networking is not very content-rich in terms of quality information, and the “pinball arcade” factor is high. The satisfaction factor is thus equivalent to that of “fast food”, which, to use an analogy, is high on sugar, but low on sustenance. Binge-social networking is even more of a reality today than binge-eating or binge-drinking. The tasty bits in social networking are the social bits which are the equivalent of the sugar in fast foods (the more you eat, the more you tend to want to go back for more).

Stepping Away

Many people cannot understand why it is so difficult to step away from their screens. When it is being suggested that we should balance the time connected to personal technology with time away from it, it is commonly interpreted as insinuating that we should be “less happy”. The fact of the matter is that many people have become accustomed to experiencing “happy sensations” to a much higher degree and much more constantly compared to how they would have under normal circumstances without technology.

Everything in Moderation

The suggestion for balance is thus not suggesting that we should be “less happy”, but rather that we should aim to be happy more organically. This implies guarding against building dependencies on superficial, simulated and stimulated emotional feedback and responses and to rather source the real thing from fellow humans directly through in-person and face-to-face interactions.

Heads are Away

Clearly, we have created a lot of additional complexity in our lives by having embraced personal technologies to the extent that we have. A significant portion of people’s attention span and space for deep reflection and contemplation is constantly captured by social media (even when they are not on it, they still think about it) to the extent that many people are oblivious of many of the real issues facing the real world and humanity. In addition, what constitutes as being “real issues” have become obscured and relative to everything else, while whatever is “triggered in the moment”, due to online habits, tends to take priority.

Tunnel Vision

If all issues are relative, then what is relevant is only determined by what gets the most exposure or has “gone viral”. In this way, by living one’s life through modern media, one risks ending up with tunnel vision. What is not presented, featured or exposed by the channels we browse or subscribe to, is off the radar and “doesn’t exist”.

Ignorance is Bliss

Without stepping out of the mainstream and making a concerted effort to inform oneself and check all facts, ignorance as a constant is almost an inevitable result. This, ironically, contradicts the erroneous belief that by being connected, a person is automatically “in the loop” and informed. One might be in the loop socially, but whether that equates to being truly informed is, of course, highly debatable.

However, one could speculate that really being informed assigns a certain amount of responsibility in relation to various issues in life and in the world, because with knowledge human conscience comes into play. Hence, the popularity of the entire range of mind-numbing and escapist media tools available for our pleasure, which we eagerly consume.

Reality May Bite

Our increasing reliance on technology for everything, including our emotions, has made it virtually indispensable, while the near future almost certainly holds a world of vastly reduced energy and other resources. This means that the viability of many future technological solutions could become constrained. There is, in fact, a likelihood that in the future we may have to do without some of the modern technologies that we have already become accustomed to.

By being so distracted by what we are holding up right in front of us, we have potentially lost sight completely of the bigger picture. Therefore, the future described above is one which, for the moment, can hardly be fathomed in our current conceptualisation of a limitless world of absolute abundance; yet, this is a world that the majority of us will come to experience within our lifetimes.

According to Carl Jung, that which we avoid tends to meet us halfway on the road to our destiny (see Part 10). The questions that we need to ask ourselves are: “Do we care to open our eyes and look at what our destiny holds, in relation to our current trajectory?’” and “Do we dare to exit the tunnel and look at the bigger picture to see what has been creeping up on us ‘while we have been away’?” [7 – 15]

Big Picture News

Energy Transition
Research and important recent reports suggest that, it is most likely already too late to convert all human energy requirements into renewable energies in time before fossil fuel energies run out.  [7,8,9,10]

Climate Change
Due to the industrial world’s impact on climate change, temperatures are set to rise well into the future, even if we cut C02 emissions right down right away. [11,12,13]

Mass Extinction
The World Wildlife Fund reports that, due to the human impact on the planet, earth is already deep into the 6th Mass Extinction which may seriously threaten the balance of the entire planetary eco-system. [14,15]

Coming Down

A combination of personal self-reliance, the ability to contribute and function within a community context, and emotional self-sufficiency has always been regarded as a set of crucially important personal commodities during difficult circumstances. Those lacking the required skills to function within a partial return-to-basics paradigm, which is something we are bound to encounter in the years ahead, may find themselves challenged during the transitional process.

However, those who pay close attention to what is happening in the real world and seek out real news (while discerning facts from fiction and drama from reality) and prepare accordingly, both internally and externally, stand a much better chance of finding themselves on higher ground when difficult times roll around.

By J.J. Montagnier

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved ·

References to and excerpts from this article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content – short link:

A shortened version of his article is available for publication – please contact the author.

References, Citations & Resources:


Research Papers:

[6] The Future of the Brain by Baroness Susan Greenfield:

(i): The Outrage Machine:
(ii): Play Again:
(iii): Generation Like by Douglas Rushkoff:
(iv): Cyberbullies: A Killer Network:
(v): Troll Hunters: BBC –
(vi): Before the Flood:

Brain Science & Related:

Big Picture News:



The Yin and Yang of Spirituality and the Future of Humanity

The Rights of Every Child

Mural: These are the rights of every child. Belfast, N. Ireland (2005). Photo by JJM.

The Yin and Yang of Spirituality

Carl Jung is famous for having brought the concept of working on shadow elements within the psyche into Western psychotherapy, although the process of self-therapy, self-transformation and psychic self-evaluation with subsequent spiritual elevation is indeed a very ancient practice. Advanced practice was perhaps considered to be found mainly in the realm of shamanism, priesthood and other high level spiritual roles. However, ancient civilizations and cultures integrated the identifying and processing of shadow characteristics also into their general spiritual and cosmological belief systems, but we find that these aspects are often not featured in popular spirituality today.

By having become relatively unconscious of the depth and nature of the individual shadow (which, according to Carl Jung, is a back-door to the collective shadow), behaviours and tendencies related to it have become more socially accepted. Unfortunately, the commercialization of spirituality means  that the positive, pleasant and easy elements of being spiritual are usually focused upon. The deeper, underlying issues often remain unexplored, so the necessary (challenging) transformation processes are not always engaged in and the shadow elements remain submerged and active or are only temporarily resolved until it appears again later. This means that modern forms of spirituality often serve predominantly as forms of spiritual entertainment or as vehicles for spiritual escapism without reaching its full depth or potential.

Perhaps if we had been paying more attention to the collective shadow elements within our societies (as a priority) since the end of the Second World War, as Carl Jung had strongly suggested, we may have been more prepared for some of the crises we are experiencing at present and those yet to come. However, as Jung also said: large portions of society remain blissfully unaware of how world peace and stability hang on a fine thread (then and now). We have never been this connected as a species in our entire history and so distracted at the same time, mostly by choice.

The awareness that all citizens of the world are responsible for contributing towards world peace and maintaining it is somehow lacking. We are living in one of the most prosperous periods in time in the history of the world, but with the developed world being far ahead. In terms of power and influence, countries which possess the most of it, carry the highest responsibility. With power comes responsibility and it is the duty of the citizens of powerful countries to remind their politicians and leaders of the responsibility to act peacefully for the greater good of humanity, not least because virtually all powerful nations put themselves forward as democratic and peace-loving.

On a personal level: Dr Jung explained in a documentary interview, Matter of Heart, that we are all uniquely born with certain characteristics and attributes within a certain historical and cultural context. That means that we each have a personal responsibility to reach the highest state possible as an individual person within that context. By doing so we participate fully and play our part to the best of our ability as individual elements within the large organism that is humanity, in the theatre of life and the universe.

The very first step towards that process is having respect for yourself (your Self, not your ego) and that process starts within. The nature of that respect is respect for your higher-self and that higher self can take a third person view to approaching and resolving internal and external conflicts. The advantage of the third person view is that almost everything can be viewed as “theatre”, (but) with a proactive, problem solving objective in mind. In other words, the spectator is observing in order to learn how to improve, adjust, or resolve his or her own approach or behaviour by comparing with what is being observed. Without taking the third person point of view, what is being observed is often copied instead of transcended.

The higher-self is beyond the ego and has a much wider perspective and expanded vision. By living our lives from that position we are the closest we can get to non-duality on a permanent basis. A person who is peaceful within, will shun conflict. A person who comes from the heart, won’t have the heart to harm another – and will motivate others not to do so either. Those who have maintained (and have respect for) their own traditions and values within their own communities and countries, will have respect for other nations and groups who have likewise maintained theirs within their own countries or regions.

A tradition-less, value-less, culture-less world is a world with sails falling in the winds, a world drifting without an anchor. It is a destabilized world with no direction, no heart and no spirit. It is a world without a stable core, without balance – the balance within missing.  That balance within the world can only be found within each individual person. The more balanced all of us become, the more balanced the world outside will be. 

Within the framework of international cooperation and conflict resolution, in the context of a balanced world, nations who come from histories of dominance would do their best to refrain from returning to or repeating such history – and take the High Road. Nations, cultures or groups with histories of having been harmed or persecuted or wronged, would refrain from enacting retribution or turning to the same methods as those who have harmed them – and take the High Road.

The above is, of course, a tall order, but when we observe and learn from the theatre of history, taking the high road is the only road which will lead to genuine progress, harmony and balance, as opposed to a false sense of progress that focuses on a narrow view of who is the most powerful or “progressive” and therefore the most “exceptional”. This approach is usually at the disadvantage of others and tends to contribute to the perpetuation of the cycle of violence indefinitely.

Mutual respect amongst nations is the bedrock of international peace and stability, but it relies on everyone participating equally. Similarly, for democracy to work a respect for its institutions is required. Over and above that, democracy relies on a certain level of moral responsibility and conscience-based ethics being present within those that ascribe or commit to it and it naturally relies on a basic understanding of what democracy means in the first place.

By considering the rights of children, within the context of various conflict zones around the world and also within our own societies in relation to what they are exposed to, we may be able to reflect on how far we have drifted away from our claims of being humanitarian, peace-loving, democratic and a force for good.

Perhaps it is time for all peace-loving peoples to request their governments to kindly de-escalate all tensions which could potentially lead to major conflicts and the harming of civilians and children. We owe it to the future of a stable and balanced world. We owe it to the future of our children and to their children’s children. Not least, we owe it  to our higher-selves and the legacy that we wish to leave behind.

“The human being who starts by withdrawing his own shadow from his neighbour is doing work of immense, immediate political and social importance.” – Carl Jung (as quoted by Sir Laurence v.d Post)

Also see: The Shift Of The Stages

J.J. Montagnier © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Jean-Jacques is an international travel writer and photographer – he writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Building the New World Within (10) – What is Enlightenment?

Berlin Wall. Photograph by Jean-Jacques. © 1998 - 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Berlin Wall. Photograph by Jean-Jacques. © 1998 – 2016. All Rights Reserved.


In this series we are exploring reasons for humanity going in repetitive negative loops and we are looking at ways in which we can spiral upwards out of our unhealthy and destructive patterns, onwards into a more balanced future.


Theatre has many objectives. It can entertain or educate or both. It can mesmerise or bring consciousness. It can motivate and inspire. It can provoke or shock. Theatre holds a mirror up to reality and can evoke inner change. Theatre can be evolutionary. It all depends on how we engage with it. By merely passively observing the play in front of us no (positive) transformation can or will take place. When we engage with it we can either do so positively or negatively.

Soap Opera

One of the reasons why soap opera (television theatre) has always enjoyed popularity is because it focuses on the shadow sides of characters; their deceit, deviousness, envy, hate, lust for power, wanting revenge and so forth. This allows viewers to “indulge” in the dramatized shadow displays of fictional characters. Passively enjoying shadow drama as entertainment is probably better than being in denial about the shadow. On the other hand, over time, exaggerated shadow theatre across various platforms can come to be perceived as a reflection of standard human behaviour. The same can be said for extreme violence depicted in various types of entertainment media.

Civilization and its Discontents [1]

[1]”In this seminal book, Sigmund Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual’s quest for instinctive freedom and civilization’s contrary demand for conformity  and repression of instincts.” – Wikipedia

Romancing the Shadow

The expectations of society for morality and civility has the effect that people suppress many of their shadow-related tendencies which is one of the reasons why the shadow tends to hold such fascination. Highlighting the shadow in others is however more pleasant than having to identify it within ourselves. This selective identification can sometimes become a strategy for avoiding having to notice the internal shadow at all. In the most unhealthy cases, this approach can even be used to purposefully direct attention away from an individual or group’s own shadow behaviours or activities by accusing others of the (same) behaviour.

Dealing with the Shadow

Whatever we suppress can come out unexpectedly in “weird and (not so) wonderful” ways. To avoid that and to alleviate the pressure of suppressed shadow material, “integration of the shadow” must occur. This means that at the very least a conscious acknowledgement of the particular suppressed material must take place. By looking internally at the causes of certain reactions, behaviours and negative approaches, the process can begin. If this is done honestly, thoroughly and consistently, the shadow elements would eventually dissipate or dissolve to the extent that they don’t feature significantly any more. This then would lead to consistent balanced behaviour, the result of having resolved negative cycles and shadow-loops.

Needless to say, a certain level of moral courage is needed for going through this process and that is up to each individual, group or society. If everyone keeps on avoiding dealing with their shadow and keep it suppressed in relation to how they behave towards other people or groups (identity politics) or other nations (geopolitics) or species or towards the planet (the “stage” we are acting upon); we may bring the very fate that so many dystopian films depict upon ourselves. For example, in the present day context it would seem that parts of the world is currently following a trajectory not dissimilar to the ones that led up to the first and second world wars.

Even with having the entire history of ancient shamanism and modern psychotherapy behind us, humanity still hasn’t made significant progress towards dealing with the collective shadow. History therefore has a tendency of repeating. Considering this failure, which we may as well acknowledge, it is perhaps now time to finally turn to internal and external conflict resolution methods by returning to internal transformation practices first,  without leaving out the “difficult parts”, and draw upon the vast archive of information accumulated by ancient and modern day scholars and analysts in this regard.  

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. Enlightenment doesn’t occur from sitting around visualizing images of light but from integrating the darker aspects of the Self into the conscious personality” – Carl Jung

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” – Carl Jung

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate. You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it. – Carl Jung

A Shadow Observatory

The shadow resides in all of us, no matter how much we like to think of ourselves as “nice people”, which we are of course, but we are also “not so nice” at times and this is especially true in group contexts. The most uninhibited examples of this can be observed in many on-line spaces nowadays. It is worth keeping in mind that having a shadow-side is a natural phenomenon of the human psyche. If we understand that the purpose of the shadow is to challenge us to growth, we can engage with it and transcend it. In addition, if we understand that one of the main reasons for being in “the theater of life” is to learn how to deal with the shadow – and that our very survival as a species depends on it, we may find the appropriate motivation and courage to deal with this issue.

Shying away from shining a light into the darker corners of the inner world is counter-productive to transformation of the Self and by extension humanity. This transformation is a process which Carl Jung described as turning dark matter into gold. Generally speaking we don’t do nearly enough shadow processing as individuals to allow for the general and necessary process of enlightening society as a whole. In fact, by having blended the on-line and off-line worlds in recent years, we have probably been doing much less shadow work than ever before. To an extent we have most likely enhanced the collective shadow, due to fewer barriers towards shadow-behaviour (on-line). Nevertheless, the upside to all this is that it provides us with the perfect opportunity to use on-line social behaviour as “a fish-bowl shadow observatory” and learn from it.

To be continued…

Also see: Shift Of The Stages

By J.J. Montagnier

© 2016. All Rights Reserved.

This is Part 10 in a series.

Jean-Jacques is an international travel writer and photographer – he writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Stage Shifting

Recoleta Angel

 Recoleta, Buenos Aires (March 2016). Photo by Jean-Jacques.

“All the world’s a stage” – Shakespeare. 

As actors in the theatre of life we are all here to play our parts, consciously or unconsciously. Presently we find ourselves in a shifting paradigm. In the old, still present age it has felt like the stage had been set and most of us have simply been reading our lines. It has perhaps not always been understood why we were in the theatre in the first place. In the incoming age our destined roles are more clear and the new paradigm is more fluid.

The present decaying stage appears to have been taken over by bad actors and is deteriorating rapidly. Ethical actors are looking for an ascending stage to board. Standing on the edge of the old, looking onto the new, the new stage and play comes into view. While the old play depended on smart and clever acting skills and wearing sophisticated masks, the new play calls for natural authenticity. Old stage concepts on the new stage are bound to fail, because as we shift from the one to the next, masks come off and stage curtains lift.

Roles are changing. Transitioning actors are becoming scriptwriters while watching themselves on stage. They are rewriting the script and improving their parts from low to high-level performances.  A drama, currently scripted to end in tragedy is being rewritten into a coming of age tale of transformation, rebirth and altered fate. This is a multi-dimensional theatre and shifting actors are becoming aware that by being in this one they are also present in others. Should the old stage disintegrate or fall away completely (a real possibility) responsible actors will be able to continue elsewhere.

Transforming stage acting from surface to core acting is being necessitated by a new element filtering into the auditorium. Many actors are facing challenges with adapting, but the best method has existed for a long time. By taking the spectator view, script writing actors can carefully observe themselves and all other actors on stage. Here they can self-identify areas which need improvement and transform themselves purposefully, while going forward. The challenging aspect of (a) majority transformation in the theater of everyday life, is that few actors are prepared to acknowledge their own low-level acting.

There is still a significant number of actors who prefer to remain in the old stage, even with the new stage coming into view. In these matters all actors have free will and choice. The new stage is still small, but can accommodate all actors from the old platform. A final revival in the old stage is still possible, but close to irreversible decay has set in due to complacency. Currently the old and new stages are overlapping, but their trajectories will diverge. Making the shift sooner will be easier than later.

While the new stage is calling for all participants to make this transition, many actors seem oblivious of their options. The stages are in the same theater, but by rejecting the existence of other stages, some actors restrict their own view. One of the reasons is that the new stage demands active stage maintenance from the outset and a basic requirement is acting responsibly towards the entire spectrum of life within the theater. This new paradigm is not for the faint-hearted, it is for the full of heart. Finding your Heart is Key. However, at the end of the day each scriptwriter will have the last say in his or her own personal  play.

By J.J. Montagnier

Also see: What is Enlightenment?

Jean-Jacques is an international travel writer and photographer – he writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Gypsy Café

Building The New World Within (9) – What is Progress?

Berlin Wall, Germany by Jean-Jacques M. © 1998 -2014. All Rights Reserved.

Berlin Wall, Germany by Jean-Jacques M. © 1998 -2016. All Rights Reserved.

What is Progress?

In the 1993 film, Groundhog Day, we saw Bill Murray’s character calling the weather bureau from a pay phone at a filling station during a blizzard. He needed urgent weather information, but could not access the internet via his Smartphone. At the time of the film, Smartphones did not exist yet. He could not even make a call from the comfort of his company’s vehicle, because cellular network reception was limited to large urban areas and the crew was stranded on a traffic-jammed motorway. Mobile phones had only just started evolving from being the proverbial “bricks” in terms of size, shape and weight. Equally, the team was not able to navigate their way back to the studio by way of GPS maps and apps while following the storm’s progress in real time. They had no choice but to return to Punxsutawney. 

Technology certainly has its advantages, but everything has a price. When something is gained, something is also inevitably lost. This is a law of nature that most of us understand and, generally, we accept this trade-off. In the context of the film, had advanced technologies been available in 1993, Phil would most certainly have made his best attempts to get back to Philadelphia as soon as possible – and Groundhog Day would not have happened. Thus, the opportunity for Phil’s personal transformation would have been lost. Giving up difficult personal growth experiences for convenience, speed and ease, is a no-brainer in today’s environment. In an instant-everything world, the contrary has little value.

“We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a ‘metamorphosis of the gods’, i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science” (Carl Gustav Jung, 1957: The Undiscovered Self, p.110).

Jung was suggesting that we should not get completely carried away with technology and science, to the extent that we lose sight of ourselves (our Selves). Being unconscious and excessively distracted could preclude us from doing just that, because without taking stock of ourselves from time to time, there can be no self-awareness and without self-awareness there can be no self-knowledge. Without self-knowledge, we would not become aware of “the unconscious man within us changing“. This change that Jung was referring to was related to the collective unconscious of humanity entering into a time of transition, the faint beginnings of which he could already sense in 1957.

Carl Jung was, perhaps, not the only person to sound advance warnings, but he was probably the most prominent Western expert in the field of the human psyche and consciousness to do so. Generally though, not many people would have imagined that within 50 years we would be discarding books for hand-held digital devices, history for fiction, cinematic art for special effects and long essays for 140 characters; that we would be connected 24/7 and have our free time dissipate until there would be hardly any left; and how we would end up having fewer face-to-face interactions, limited time for deep inner reflection and little time for discovering our true selves, contrary to the touted advantages of new technologies which were supposed to free up more of our time.

Electronic mobile and wireless systems have been introduced like an avalanche onto human systems. Using so many technologies, platforms and applications at the same time – and continuously – whilst also expecting to maintain an equilibrium with mind, body and spirit, is proving to be an ongoing challenge. Although we are loath to admit it – the idea being counter-intuitive to common perception – the sheer scale of our technological advancement has, in fact, led to regression in some areas, indiscernible perhaps to the blissfully distracted, but obvious to those not completely caught up in the blizzard of new gadgets, apps and platforms.

Various effects of voluntary overexposure to technologies have already been identified through research, with results freely available to the public. Our main interest in this topic is with the impact that technology has on our free time and mind space which are required for personal development and growth. Therefore, in the context of reflecting upon where we have come from, where we are at present and where we are going to, we will now review the exponential boom in technology in recent decades and delve into some of the behavioural and societal changes generally observable in many societies today.

Television and Free Time

Excessive time spent in front of television sets had always been considered potentially harmful to children. “Back in the day” before mobile technologies, it was common practice for parents to restrict TV screen time, typically by having children do homework first and allowing viewing time afterwards as a reward, or by ushering kids out of the house during the day so that they could play with their friends instead of spending too much time in front of the television.

Children continued to participate in activities traditionally considered important for natural child development. Over time, parental management of children’s television viewing habits dwindled and gave way to teenagers having TV sets in their rooms, until eventually even younger children received them – it not being seen as an age-related privilege anymore. Here, we saw the beginnings of a clear trend towards adult rights being assigned to children from a younger age.

Although television played a significant role in people’s lives for decades, it still continued to remain a leisure activity restricted to home life; it was not blended in with school or university or work. Television was only socially significant during home-based activities and in bars and pubs. When people went out of their homes, they left their TV screens behind. When they entered the workplace, school or university campus, they were focused on the activities taking place in their immediate environment, bar the usual natural distractions. Multi-tasking to the extent necessary today was not encouraged or considered very important.

Unfiltered exposure to the immediate environment and direct personal interactions facilitated full awareness of the present moment resulting in a richer and deeper experience. During free time, for example while walking or driving or travelling by public transport (when not listening to music), sights and sounds, imagery and random thoughts were triggered leading to reflections on community, society, culture and life in general. This, in turn, allowed insights and reflections on one’s own life or one’s place in the world, motivating the formulation of future plans to achieve personal ambitions and dreams or reflecting on what had already been achieved. Alternatively, free time simply resulted in the mind taking a natural rest as opposed to being over-stimulated all the time. All of the aforementioned still happen today, but have to compete for mind space occupied and preoccupied with a whole new world online.  

In the past, ample – or in today’s terms, “too much” – free time demanded to be filled in, because of “the existential vacuum”. As famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl explained in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, this often manifests in people as something which could be described as “a void within”. It is this void which tends be experienced as a type of meaninglessness in life, and was originally caused by the combination of the loss of instinct (a built-in guidance system) when humans evolved over time and the loss of tradition (a framework for knowing what to do) when societies progressed to modern individualism.

Traditionally, our extra free time used to be taken up by family time spent together, or being immersed in a personal hobby or distraction-free time spent with close friends, or with being completely caught up in a good book or, perhaps, by spending time at a bricks and mortar social or sports club. Thus, the kaleidoscope of life in the local community had ample room for flourishing naturally and – mostly – distraction free.

Discovering and working on one’s underlying talents, skills and creative gifts were naturally motivated through inevitable, but necessary restlessness and boredom (as depicted in Groundhog Day). Authentic personality development came about through direct face-to-face interactions, and conscious character development was necessitated by having to claim one’s place in the real world as opposed to developing avatars from behind digital screens in a virtual world. Having enough personal time away from social communications created the space for qualifying personal beliefs, values and ethics and fostered the building of strong individual identity within.

The Arrival of the Smartphone

Early advanced mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) were originally used by people in certain professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and Information Technology professionals. These devices were favoured due to their multi-purpose functionality and were known as the technological “Swiss Army knives” of the time, but – very much unlike today – people in general didn’t have much use for them.  There was no point in using something one didn’t really need, and people still preferred keeping their lives relatively simple. Basic cell phones with basic functions sufficed for a while longer.

Eventually, fast internet access, along with the further development of mobile technologies and the proliferation of social media platforms and applications, turned once-simple cell phones into advanced and indispensable interactive connectivity accessories. Today, using them for social networking and various other entertainment purposes by far supersedes their traditional purpose and functionality which take up much more time than what basic functions of old phones ever did.

Balancing Smartphones and Free Time

Wherever we go, people are connected and preoccupied with their devices, even when they are together. The ubiquitous Smartphone is ever-present during work time, on campus, at school, at home, during leisure activities, during many sports activities, when walking on sidewalks or in the park, while driving cars, when having meals in restaurants and when using public transport systems. Talking loudly – in public areas – with headphones to someone into a phone is a common phenomenon. In short, virtually all activities which would traditionally have been given a person’s full attention, with few exceptions, have become blended in with Smartphone use. This is the case with people ranging from the relatively young to the relatively old, which is in stark contrast to no more than 10 to 15 years ago when this was not the case.

Technology and Child Development

Lots of parents seem to be making digital devices available to children in their pre-teens, and it is not always clear whether any restrictions are being placed on using them. How parents manage their children is rightfully a parental and private matter, but it can be assumed that many parents are not always completely aware of what their children are doing online, or exactly how much time they spend there. Compared with television, managing internet access on mobile devices is a more complicated matter. From a management point of view, this is one of the areas where we have not yet fully adapted to mobile technologies. This shows how the introduction of complex, boundary-breaking technologies can permanently shake up established habits and practices.

Research points to the fact that many children go to bed with their phones switched on next to them, and a number of parents readily admit that they provide their children with Smartphones or tablets to “keep them happy” or because “it keeps them quiet”, while at home or in the car. Unfortunately, the outsourcing of dedicated parental time to technology is all too prevalent and easy. In the television age, parental controls were considered obvious and necessary, while in the age of the Smartphone the jury seems to be out.  There are exceptions, of course, but parental control today is a far cry from what it used to be in the past. When it comes to computers, Smartphones, gaming and television, many children are assigned adult roles in terms of self-management and “are left up to their own devices”.

It’s not only children who spend a lot of time online. Parents, and even grandparents, have much less time to interface with their children; their free time is constrained and their concentration levels are affected. Children and young people are much more vulnerable to being overexposed to technology though, because they have not yet fully developed. Children need both the space (the free time) and the structure (parental guidance and positive role models) to do so. Without these, their personal development can become stinted. In effect, many children are not developing their own individual personal identities naturally – separate from attaching them to their online personas in relation to role models online.

The idea of parents wanting their children to be part of the in-group has led to teenagers – and even pre-teens – receiving expensive electronic goods as a matter of course, with children rarely being expected to contribute to costs. Instead of having to “earn them” in order to instill an understanding of the value of expensive items, these appliances are often provided by parents as “the basic necessities of life”. Often, they are replaced relatively frequently when new models are issued and old models fall out of fashion, which points to how affluent societies have become in terms of access to readily available, highly advanced, but relatively affordable consumer electronics.

Mobile technologies are not forced upon anyone. At the end of the day, the consumption of any products or services, other than the genuine basic necessities, lies in the arena of free choice. Yet, it is also worth noting that following trends has always played a big role in society. Therefore, the question of whether it is appropriate to supply advanced technologies to children under a certain age, for example, tends to be somewhat controversial due to the autonomous status that parents enjoy. Criticising parenting is not considered politically correct when what is being criticised is practised by large sections or even swathes of society. The (often subconscious) reasoning is that “if everyone’s doing it, it must be okay”. Generally speaking, it would seem that normality-bias (when something becomes normalised) sets in as soon as a majority is perceived to have been reached for an activity. Due to high levels of interconnectivity today, it is likely that normality-bias sets in even sooner than before. 

Ethics and morality are inherent and present in all people and societies, but they can weaken or shift. When values and morals are discarded over time, they tend to be replaced by new variations on the theme. A case in point would be, for example, when inner, self-guiding personal morals or ethics, combined with independent thought, end up being replaced with external group consensus motivated political correctness – devoid of critical thought – resulting in compromised personal autonomy and potentially contributing to the loss of self-agency. This is also known as de-individuation, i.e. group consciousness takes over from individual consciousness.

Environmental Effects

There is no doubt that groundbreaking technological developments are and have always been crucial for human advancement. The question that we are grappling with in the current part of our discussion is: ‘’How should advancement or progress be qualified?’’ Should it be framed within the context of improved convenience, speed and ease, without any concern for limited resources or environmental impacts? On the other hand, should progress, perhaps, be applied to the ability of achieving advancement and progression naturally with as little environmental damage as possible and within the concept of limited resources? Put differently, at what point does progress become the contrary?

At this point, we can touch on the issue of rare earth metals. All mobile technologies and computer systems and an array of other advanced modern technologies contain these elements. They are considered to be the “magic ingredients” which make it possible for our technologies to become as advanced as they are. As the name suggests, “rare earths” are difficult to extract and are in limited supply, although not in the conventional sense. They are, in fact, found all around the world, but in small quantities and often in places where mining is not possible or where they cannot be extracted due to other serious complications.

These elements are indispensable and are required in large volumes in the production of green energies such as wind turbines and solar panels. With increased consumer demand for mobile technologies and consumer electronics, the demand for rare earth metals has skyrocketed in recent years. One of the main reasons for green technologies being so expensive to implement is the cost of rare earth metals. For example, one large wind turbine needs as much as 2 tons during the manufacturing process. Modern Smartphones contain as much as 60 rare earths (in minute quantities), up from around the 20 rare earths needed in old cell phones in the mid- 1990s.

Within this context, one might imagine that from a position of responsibility rare earths might be conserved and kept in reserve to be allocated mainly towards critical purposes. The question of whether mass entertainment needs “should take priority” would not arise in the future if there were unlimited supplies of rare earth elements in the ground. Of course, at the present time, we are not running out, but research suggests that it is very likely that shortages will arise within the next few decades due to complexities in relation to the cost effectiveness of extracting rare earths. Several of these elements have no substitutes or replacements at all, which leads directly to the heart of the nature of limited resources. 

Rare earth metals being used in consumer gadgets and devices is not common knowledge. It is questionable, however, whether such knowledge would reduce the over-consumption of personal electronics. We can take the example of cheap clothing which started coming into Western stores from Asia a few years ago. The sweatshop conditions of the workers initially generated outrage amongst consumers. It flared up for a while, but over time the ethical outrage subsided to a point where it more or less disappeared. Therefore, we can deduce that there is a lack of sustained will in relation to ethical responsibility.

The bottom line is that people really love shopping, to the extent that they would rather not want to think about where products come from or what goes into them. No one likes their conscience being unsettled. However, the low-cost bulk supply of highly advanced consumer technologies may not be sustainable indefinitely. Somewhere along the line, raw material supply problems will arise and prices will spike, making the current type of planned obsolescence (limited lifespan) type of manufacturing redundant. 

The Need for Entertainment

Nobody disputes the need for entertainment and being socially connected. Obviously, we need to relax too, and humans are social animals after all. In fact, we have, perhaps, become the most social animals of all. Human civilisation has progressed to the extent that we are able to prioritise socialising above all else. Through industrialisation and modernisation, we have achieved levels of safety and comfort that negate virtually all previous (“primitive”) survival considerations and demands.

It is not clear, however, whether we are able to curtail our enhanced entertainment requirements. In fact, the concept of limiting entertainment consumption flies directly in the face of everything that consumer culture stands for. Underlying and also unifying our linguistic, ethnic, geographic, historic and other differences in the world, is consumer culture, the dominant culture of the day in many parts of the world. Considering that we have built this culture on the premise of infinite resources, brain science is not needed to determine that, eventually, the proverbial bottom will drop out, considering that we live on a planet with finite resources.

Questions on Necessity & Moral Responsibility

If adults are not responsible for their own consumption management and those of their children, then who is? From a post-modern point of view, it would, perhaps, be preferred that the question would be framed differently, for example: “Is moral responsibility even relevant anymore?” or “Who is to decide what is considered to be morally correct and what is not?” Which brings us to another question: Does progress and being progressive mean, perhaps, having the privilege of being able to forfeit (or outsource) personal responsibility without judgment? If we answer in the affirmative, then we may be tempted to blame our consumption habits on advertising or on marketing techniques or on being enticed by too much choice, or indeed on peer pressure. If we answer in the negative, we may have to conclude that decision-making processes are ultimately up to us as individuals and that they rely solely on our capacity to act autonomously as adults.

The fact remains that when people stop caring and no-one steps in to do the caring for them, responsibility lapses. Personal freedom means that the state rarely interferes with parenting, and so parents have near complete autonomy in this regard. Some post-modern parents, for example, may rightly or wrongly consider themselves to be progressive by outsourcing parental duties to screens, devices and apps, “because everyone is doing it”. Due to moral relativity, positions of “good” or “bad”, or “right” or “wrong”, are perceived as being redundant or irrelevant. Normality-bias then sets the direction of the general flow of doing things, and internal motivations to the contrary don’t feature (anymore).    

It has been said by wise men and women (Carl Popper, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and Viktor Frankl [16])  that with freedom comes responsibility, but it would seem that “the ultimate freedom” we so yearn for is a freedom from responsibility, a type of return  to the womb syndrome where everything is taken care of, for us and on our behalf.

Symbols of Progress

Technology as a symbol of progress means that we feel that by merely engaging with it makes us progressive. “The more we engage with it, the more progressive we become”. Even if we know this not to be (exactly) true, we know that using and owning technology give an outwardly impression of being advanced. For many people, the idea of being progressive provides for a sense of identity, and living by or through technology has caused it to become a type of modern-day religion. We believe that technology will save the day – and it being our appointed saviour means that we cannot “blaspheme” against it. The potential side effects of technology are, therefore, not dwelled upon much. For example, many people believe that if we don’t manage to limit the destructive results of our largesse, we can always colonise Mars and make it habitable with future, as yet undeveloped, technologies. In the same vein, when we run out of resources on Earth, we believe we could go and mine them on another planet, or, perhaps, we will extract them from passing asteroids. When weather patterns really start wreaking havoc, we would develop relevant technological solutions on demand or, for example, should severe draught arrive in parts of the world, our scientists and engineers may create advanced rain-making technologies.

Having these vague and somewhat far-fetched solutions in the back of our minds means that life can continue as per normal. The fact that rare earth metals may be needed to build the space craft necessary to travel to these remote destinations or to develop any of the other future technologies we believe in, is somehow, not factored in. 

Information and Distraction

Being overly stimulated and constantly distracted has the effect of a person rarely being in the present moment fully, which has no doubt – and, perhaps, ironically – contributed to a major interest in the popular self-help genre of “the power of (being in) the present moment”. Typically, the more we fill up our free time with online activities, the more the psyche subconsciously craves for more free time, an ever-moving goalpost. The human psyche naturally seeks equilibrium which demands uncluttered personal time and space. When something is out of sync, we will often be guided through intuition to correct the imbalance, and when not resolved the need for balance persists, eventually causing mental fatigue, anxiety and stress.

Blurring the Lines

We do not need to be clinical psychologists to come to know our ego and mind processes – namely, our emotions, our feelings, our shadow parts, our fears, our rational and irrational thoughts, our actions and reactions, our needs, our wants and our desires. On the contrary, we can only get to know ourselves when we think carefully about all these components of our personalities in relation to real life events and experiences. When online events become our main reference points, there is an overlap and reality can become “blurred”. For example, many young people experience their online world to be more authentic, because it is more colourful, interactive and dynamic compared to the perceived drabness of everyday life (offline). 

A Point to Ponder

From a personal development point of view, when we don’t have enough real life reference points – because they are shifted into the background – and we are living a filtered and blurred existence with limited time both for reflection and the conscious integration of real life experiences and lessons learned from them, then individuation stagnates.

Given our preoccupation with modern technology, a question worth pondering is:  If or when “the unconscious man (or woman) within us” starts changing (individually), as Carl Jung foresaw, would we be alert enough to become aware of it?

[16] Quotes:

“While we do maintain some level of instinct, the human being can go beyond instinct. But that also means the human becomes all the more responsible for its existence. The human has the ability to make choices and to reflect upon those choices and determine whether or not they are advancing in a positive or negative direction.”Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry  his own weight, this is a frightening prospect… … Many men and women who are far happier when they have relinquish their freedom, when someone else guides them, makes their decisions for them, takes the responsibility for them and their actions. They don’t want to make up their minds. They don’t want to stand on their own feet.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“We often hear it asserted that most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people  are frightened of responsibility. Whether or not this applies to ‘most people’ there is, I am sure, a vital element of truth in it.” Carl Popper

“With freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not ended yet.” Nelson Mandela

By Jean-Jacques Montagnier

© 2016. All Rights Reserved.

This is Part 9 in a series.

To be continued…

J.J. Montagnier is an international travel writer and photographer – he writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Further reading, citations and references:



Peruvian Selection – People, Landscapes, Churches & Ruins

Peruvian Girl with Alpaca

Peruvian Girl with Alpaca – en route from Chivay to Puno

Peru planning: I patched together an itinerary by working out a route which would connect the main places I was going to visit (Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Puno & Lake Titicaca, Cusco & Inca Trail) with coach journeys in-between, which would include stopping at various points of interest along the way.  That meant that every 3 or 4 days I would be relaxing on luxury coaches, allowing for recovery time and alternative viewing opportunities from the intensive sightseeing trips and excursions I would be doing in and around the main attractions.

Most of the photographs below were taken during these journeys, except for the Colca Canyon photos, which were taken in a very tranquil atmosphere on the 1st of January – but the hike itself was demanding and a good opening activity to my time in Peru.  The last photograph in this selection was taken in Arequipa. It’s always difficult to decide which shots to include, but these were the personal highlights for me.

Thank you for following my Peruvian posts over the weeks – this is the last one in the batch.

– Jean-Jacques

Between Chivay and Puno (1)

Between Chivay and Puno (1)

Between Chivay and Puno (2)

Between Chivay and Puno (2)

Cabonaconde Valley

Cabonaconde Valley

Cabonaconde entrance to Colca Canyon

Cabonaconde – entrance to path leading to Colca Canyon

 Colca Canyon View (1)

Deep down in Colca Canyon there lies an Oasis…

Colca Canyon Oasis - Peru

Colca Canyon Oasis coming into view

Colca Canyon View (2)

The route out of Colca Canyon – from the oasis up the opposite side

Colca Canyon Church

Colca Canyon Church

Valley View from Antahuillque

Valley View from Antahuillque lookout point

Pukara Church (1)

Pukara Church Front

 Pukara Church (2)

Pukara Church – side view from the museum

 Signal, House and Valley

Signal & House at Marangani

Between Puno and Cusco

Window view of alpacas, sheep and llamas along the way

 Between Puno and Cusco

Earthy colours and a few flamingoes at a distance

Stone Bridge and Hang Bridge - Checacupe

Stone bridge & hang bridge at Checacupe

Church at Raqchi Ruin

Church at Raqchi

 Raqchi Ruins (1) - Peru

Raqchi Ruins

Raqchi Ruins (2) and Altars

Raqchi Ruins and Altars

Traditional Peruvian Women

Peruvian women in traditional dress – Arequipa

Visiting Peru
Photography by Jean-Jacques M
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café

Inca Trail Views (2/2)

The Classic Inca Trail
Peru, South America
Part 2

Inca Trail View 18

Camino Inca Tradicional – the Highs and the Lows

Things we learned on the Inca Trail:

It is not a competition.
It is not about fitness, but endurance.
It is not so much about endurance of the body, but of the mind.
The speed of your progress depends on how much luggage you are carrying, physically and mentally.
At the end of the trail you are bound to have lost some baggage along the way.
You will meet many different types of hikers. In terms of hiking gear, from the most technologically advanced to the least.
Often you will notice the least equipped hikers doing much better than the most equipped.
Every day will bring a variety of feelings, sensations and emotions.
Varying altitudes will have physical and mental side effects.
One moment you will think: “I’m not doing too badly”.
(Sometimes you will pass the fittest and most experienced guides and hikers.)
Not long afterwards you will think: “I’m not doing too well.”
(Sometimes the least fit or least experienced hikers will pass you.)
The best approach is: one step at a time.
Focus on your breathing.
Everyone is hiking on their own even though they are part of a group.
The highest points are best spent on your own for reflection.
Socialising and camaraderie is very important in the evenings at the camp sites.
The Incas didn’t shy away from challenges .
Everyone will make it.


Inca Trail View 19

Continuing: Parts of the trail on Day 3 feels like hiking through a natural botanic garden

Inca Trail View 20

Reaching misty heights in the cloud forest

Inca Trail View 21

Phuyupatamarka: Often cloud-covered, but lucky for us, not today

Inca Trail View 22

Exploring the stairs and slopes of Phuyupatamarka

Inca Trail View 23

The view from Phuyupatamarka. Elevation: 3680m.

Inca Trail View 24

The original Inca Trail – stones laid by the Incas

Inca Trail View 25

With fresh organic “décor”

Inca Trail View 26

Arrival at Wiñay Wayna terraces with a llama welcoming party

Inca Trail View 27

Wiñay Wayna – meaning: “Forever Young” – Elevation: 2650m

Inca Trail View 28

Taking a breather and enjoying the views, with the Urubamba River below

Inca Trail View 30

Inca Rail, snaking along the Urubamba River.

Wiñay Wayna stone buildings - In Inca times this site was the last rest and cleansing point before arrival at Machu Piccu. Elevation: 2650m

Wiñay Wayna stone buildings – In Inca times this site was the last rest and cleansing point before arrival at Machu Piccu. Elevation: 2650m

Inca Trail View 31

View of the Urubamba from Wiñay Wayna

Inca Trail View 32

First clear sight of Machu Picchu while hiking, after the clouds have lifted

Inca Trail View 33

Machu Picchu below

Inca Trail View 34

Arrival: Machu Picchu – Elevation: 2430m. Meaning: “Old peak”. Built by the Incas around 1450 for the Inca emperor. The site was abandoned about a century later and was rediscovered again in 1911. Machu Picchu is believed to have been an important cultural and educational centre which was built at the height of the Inca Empire. Despite its fame, this is one of the most impressive and well preserved ancient archaeological sites from the ancient world. This brings to an end the Classic Inca Trail. Thanking you for coming along!

<< Return to Part 1

The Classic Inca Trail – January 2016
Photography by Jean-Jacques
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café

Inca Trail Views (1/2)

The Classic Inca Trail
Peru, South America
Part 1

Inca Trail View 2

After passing through the Piscacucho checkpoint we crossed a bridge over the Urubamba River

(January 7 – 10, 2016)

The Inca Trail is not what you think it is. Or rather, it was not what I thought it would be. I had no expectations. In fact I was slightly apprehensive about doing it, even up to two days before the start. The reason being that I was concerned that it would be too crowded or commercialised. In recent years the Classic Inca Trail has become one of the most famous and  popular treks in the world.

The trail can only be done by joining a group and solo-trekking is not allowed. Mountain hiking is a type of  meditative process for me and I was not sure whether such a busy trail would be ideal for that kind of experience. However, this route was highly recommended by everyone and would be the most appropriate for viewing ancient sites and ruins along the way.

I decided to just go with the flow and enjoy the scenery. I did not make any special preparations, except for having all the necessary gear. As for fitness, I had done the Colca Canyon trail a few days earlier, which was quite tough due to the heat, but mainly because I was not very fit, (although) I hoped it would be a good “warming-up exercise” for the Inca Trail. Otherwise I would adapt  to the pace during the first day or so.

To my pleasant surprise the group I joined was an extended family from Cusco, doing the Inca Trail as a highlight of their annual holidays. Some of them had done the trail before. The advantage was that we were a small group and I could do my own thing most of the time and also be social at times. 

In a nutshell: The Inca Trail is a very personal experience for each individual hiker  – more about that in Part 2. In the meantime, without any further ado, here are some visual highlights of the first 3 days – enjoy the views.


Inca Trail View 1

Welcome to the Inca Trail – Starting point elevation: 2572m.

Inca Trail View 3

We’re on our way!

Inca Trail View 4

Inca Rail and Ruins

Inca Trail View 5

The first large ancient Inca Site – Llactapata (aka Patallacta) – originally used for crop production and storage. Elevation: 2840m.

Inca Trail View 6

Rest stop – Corn and Mountains

Inca Trail View 7

Ascending for hours: Wamiwañusca Pass (aka “Dead Woman´s Pass”).

Inca Trail View 8

Looking down to see where we have come from

Inca Trail View 9

Runkaracay – ancient Inca watchtower and resting station for couriers. Elevation: 3950m.

Inca Trail View 10

Higher and higher we go

Inca Trail View 11

Mountain lake view. Getting there…

Inca Trail View 12

Reaching a high point – and a milestone (or several). Elevation: 4250m.

Inca Trail View 13

Descending. What comes up, must go down.

Inca Trail View 14

Sayacmarca in the distance

Inca Trail View 15

Passing through Sayacmarca. Elevation: 3728m.

Inca Trail View 16

View of another “tambo” (a resting station for couriers)

Inca Trail View 17

Inca Trail Rainbow at dusk. Tomorrow’s another day.

Continue to Part 2 >>

The Classic Inca Trail – January 2016
Photography by Jean-Jacques
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café

Peru – Ancient Inca Design and Architecture

Inca Design, Architecture and Technology
Machu Picchu & Ollantaytambo
Peru, South America

While in Peru in January I found myself at two sites where examples of Inca architecture and design could be observed in its finest form. Here below follows a visual tour.

[click to view slides]

Immediately noticeable was the combination of strength, functionality, durability and visual appeal. Aesthetics always played a role for the Inca, although it took much, much longer than today to construct buildings, walls and cities. The Incas had no power tools of any kind to assist them in the shaping of stones. It had to be done manually and these varied from hard granite rocks and blocks to pica and limestone. Many of the exact methods applied back then, to split, carve and polish rocks are unknown today, but it is thought that water, copper tools and other stones were used for polishing in order to obtain smooth shapes and surfaces.

In most cases stones were prepared away from the sites where they were to be used, which meant that measurements had to be taken first, then the stones or rather bricks had to be meticulously carved and polished at the quarry and from there transported to the sites for an exact fit on arrival. Needless to say, in today’s context, this was a remarkable feat and points to a highly advanced civilization who used the minimum to achieve the maximum – through ingenuity, intelligence, creativity and hard work, without waste and while remaining in harmony with the environment.

Worth mentioning is that in Machu Picchu we can see cases where there are slight gaps between some of the large carved stone bricks – these unusual spaces are attributed to earthquakes [Image 14]. Resistance to earthquakes was a built-in feature of Inca architecture and afterwards rocks would usually settle back into their places. At Ollantaytambo, The Wall of the Six Monoliths (Image 22) is especially impressive for its precision carving, seamless fit and artistic features, and how these 50 ton rocks were transported remains a mystery.

The Inca’s were not short on technology either and at Machu Picchu, which was once the educational centre of the Inca empire, we can see an Inca sun clock [Image 16], an Inca mirror [Image 17] which was also used to see the reflection of the stars at night, and an Inca Compass [Image 24].

An interesting element of Inca design that I noticed is that in some ways it resembles Egyptian design (for example the doorways) and the first time I heard the local Quechua language in the Cusco area, it had an Arabic ring to my ear, so there may well be some truth in speculation that in ancient times the Incas might have been in contact with the Egyptians – or that their descendants may even have heralded from there.

– by Jean-Jacques

Visiting Peru – January 2016
Photography by Jean-Jacques M.
Information from guides & internet research
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café

Peru – Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca

Uros Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Uros islands are floating reed islands found on Lake Titicaca, the largest fresh water lake in South America, situated between Peru and Bolivia. At 3800 metres above sea level Lake Titicaca is considered to be the highest navigable lake in the world. In the local Quechua language “titicaca” means “Mount Puma” or “grey puma”.

1. Solar Powered Floating Reed Islands - Lake Titicaca - Peru

Floating Reed Islands with solar power – Lake Titicaca – Peru. January 2016.

The floating Uros islands were originally created in pre-Colombian times when the small Uros tribe needed to find a solution for being attacked by various other tribes. This happened at a time when constant migration of new groups to Lake Titicaca area where the Uru were living, threatened their peaceful lifestyles.

3. President's Display - Uros island - Lake Titicaca

The president of this reed island demonstrates how the islands are constructed.

The islands were (and are) constructed with many layers of totora, a type of reed which grows abundantly in the shallow parts of the lake. In the middle of the ice cold Lake Titicaca the Uros people were safe from being bothered by troublemakers and they established a lifestyle of using reeds for all their construction needs (islands, homes and boats) and they started living from the animals and plants found in and on the lake. Reeds were also consumed as a type of food, although due to present day contamination (in the lake) the reeds cannot be safely eaten any more.

9. Pots and Cooking Utensils - Uros - Lake Titicaca

Pots and Cooking Utensils – Uros – Lake Titicaca

Today many of the floating islands have solar power, which has modernised their lifestyles. Urus people can now cook without having to make fire, reducing the accompanying hazards. The islanders can also charge their cell phones and even watch television and run small refrigerators.

6. Solar Panels between huts - Uros - Titicaca - Peru

Solar Panel between reed homes – its “stem” camouflaged with reeds.

There are presently around 92 floating Uros islands on Lake Titicaca. Uros people on most of the islands continue to live traditionally for the most part. On some islands subsistence living and living strictly from the lake has given way to making a living from tourism.

7. Solar Panel and Eggs - Uros - Titicaca - Peru

Solar Panel, Eggs and Reeds

 New layers of reeds are added every two or three months due to the reeds at the bottom rotting away quite quickly. When walking on the reeds it feels like walking on a large sponge and one has to step carefully to avoid stepping right through the reeds in some parts.

8. Reed Huts - Uros Island

(Almost) everything made from reeds

Reed arches are popular on the islands and reflect the stone arches which can be found on the main islands on Lake Titicaca. On some islands the locals play soccer matches – which they always win when visitors take part – because they are so used to stepping on “unstable ground”. Arches are also perfect goal posts.

5. Arch 1 - Uros Island - Lake Titicaca - Peru

An arch with a view

A variety of colourful and durable handmade arts and crafts are on sale by Uros islanders to help them sustain their lifestyles and to import goods from the mainland.

10. Uros Handicrafts on sale for visiting visitors to t

Handicrafts on sale

Most of the islands have lookout towers and even today the islanders are always ready, should some kind of threat arise. They can then move away from the trouble by cutting their anchors (and in some cases sawing the island in half – they have large saws for this purpose) and arrange for motor boats to quickly tow them away.

12. Water Tower, lake and hills, Uros Island, Lake Titicaca

“Tourists (or pirates?) ahoy!”

Every island has its own reed boat(s) so the islanders can visit each other. When there are large community events such as weddings, several islands are tied together, creating one big temporary island space where festivities can take place.

13. Boat - Lake Titicaca - Uros Islands - Peru

Uros island reed boat

When visitors spend time on an Uros island the president of the island would often invite visitors to join him for a trip around the waterways or to a neighbouring island.

14. Uros Island president and captain taking visitors for a tour

Uros Island president and captain taking visitors for a ride on Lake Titicaca

Some of the Uros islanders have pets, including dogs and cats. 

15. Islands Ahoy - four legged shipmate - Lake Titicaca Reed Boat

“Islands Ahoy!” Four-legged shipmate  on the lookout.

Uros people are hospitable and welcoming and proud of their reed island heritage and lifestyles. Their friendly enthusiasm in showing guests around adds to the experience.

Uros island - Lake Titicaca

Farewell party

Due to the unique lifestyles of the Uros islanders who for the most part still live their lives like they did centuries ago, visiting Uros is a unique and satisfying experience even if it has become quite a popular tourist attraction on Lake Titicaca.

17. Hasta la vista babies, Uros, Lake Titicaca

“Hasta la vista babies!” they called to us while waving good-bye .

Uros islands are accessible by excursion boat from the port in Puno. Visiting them is usually part of a two day excursion including an overnight home-stay, either on Isla Amantani or Isla Taquile, or on one of the Uros islands.

18. Uros Islands - Lake Titicaca - Peru

Uros Islands – Lake Titicaca – Peru

Visiting Peru – January 2016
Photography by Jean-Jacques M.
Information from guides, locals & doing research
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café