What Is Ten Syllables?
If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.
- Chinese Proverb
Ten Syllables is Eros’s response to Thanatos. Our goal is to save life on earth and transform civilization. Every human being has a role to imagine, create, and play. Have you imagined what your role is to be? If so, what is it? If not, do you wish to continue the role of refusing to accept a role?
The individual writing this is channeling the anguish of every living creature on earth. So are you.
Ten Syllables intends to save life on earth by transforming civilization back into a vital habitat before civilization transforms the Mother Earth into a dead zone. By “transform civilization,” we mean to replace the existing context of rivalrous, exclusionary tribalism, with the context of collaborative, inclusive holism.
There are ten steps to saving life on earth:
1. We begin where we are. Humans have faith in themselves. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. But we’ve been taught to deny our faith-in-self, our inner authority, and surrender authority to others. The first and most critical step is to acknowledge and take responsibility for our faith in ourselves. Stop Judasing your own inner Jesus! You can do it right now! Go ahead, say it: “I hereby acknowledge and take responsibility for my faith in myself. Henceforth, I will be the ultimate authority on every choice I make.”
2. The second step is to commit to the journey within. The civilization we’ve allowed to spring up around us has made us confused, anxious and fragmented. In our present state, we aren’t effective enough to undertake, much less succeed at, our heroic quest. But based on our acknowledged faith in ourselves, we can commit to acquiring greater self-understanding and learning how to get integrated when we want to be integrated. Use your faith-in-self and the authority you’ve just reclaimed, and choose to transform yourself. Ten Syllables has a map if you wander off the path.
3. Having committed to ourselves, we must begin committing to others. We commit to others the same way we commit to ourselves. We explain our heroic quest, affirm our faith in them, commit to listening to them without bias, and invite them to join us.
4. We gather into communities and see to it that the communities function the same way we, as integrated individuals, function. Because, as personal integration is critical to personal effectiveness, so community integration is critical to community effectiveness. We’re going to need all the personal and community effectiveness we can muster.
5. We commit to meeting regularly. At the meetings, we do two things. First, we listen ourselves and one another to integration. Think of a samurai warrior, exhaling before engaging in combat. Then, we figure out meaningful ways to withdraw from the prevailing, rivalrous tribal context, and imagine the alternative, collaborative and holistic context we wish to create in its place.
6. We assess progress and the implementation of our withdrawal from the existing context and our creation of the new context.
7. We replace the existing context with the alternative context. This may proceed slowly at first, but hang on to your hat. Expect our achievement of an accelerating succession of breakthroughs.
8. We achieve critical mass.
9. We save civilization.
10. We save life on earth - for the time being.
The Ten Syllables leadership hierarchy will be fluid and minute-to-minute. The most integrated individuals will be the wisest and most effective individuals. As such, they will be speaking the highest truth. Leadership authority will rest with those speaking the highest truth.
When a Ten Syllables community can’t reach consensus about a course of action, it will be interpreted as the consensus choice of no action. Ten Syllables may not always do the best thing, but it will always proceed in the most collaborative, inclusive and holistic way, which will enable it to be open to and correct its mistakes quickly.
We understand the problems we face. We know that our goal of transforming civilization is radical and that we may not achieve it. We intend, as Gandhi taught, to “attend to the means and trust that the ends will take care of themselves, or not as the case may be.” In the final analysis, we are undertaking this quest because personal integration applied to a worthy cause is personally fulfilling, win, lose, or draw.
And, we believe that nothing short of this magnitude of vision, commitment, and action will save us.
We invite you to join us. You might as well. If you join us, you'll be on a team with friends in a matter of days. If you don't join us, sooner or later you'll be doing the same thing we're doing, but on your own. Because, as the old dictum points out, “Nothing focuses a man's attention like the certitude that he’s to be hung in the morning.”
Your faith, your authority, your choice.
Integrated Communities of Integrated Individuals pursuing an understanding of themselves and each other with the power to fund what they agree would be good will transform civilization and give us the better world we all know in our hearts is possible.
The Problem in a Nutshell
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, ‘til he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern. - William Blake
Symbols at first mediated reality and then replaced it. - John Zerzan
Here’s the problem:
We know from art and artifacts left behind that in the Upper Paleolithic period, c. 50,000 years ago, humans began making huge advances in symbolizing the world and the self. We no doubt possessed aspects of consciousness before then, perhaps a sense of self, but the acceleration of naming, associating and reasoning brought us to the level of consciousness we possess today.
No one is sure of the sequence, but I imagine our development occurred somewhat along the following lines: As we gained confidence, it was “let the good times roll.” We imagined ourselves as fully autonomous beings who lived a mortal existence. Over time, we imagined gods who lived forever, made our visual symbols of them look like us, and adopted the idea of after-lives and reincarnation.
As we became more proactive symbolizers, we became more confident. More confidence led to more accurate, but also flawed conjuring. We imagined free will, and that we possessed it. We imagined an infinite complexity of life, and then that we would one day fathom it. Concluding that we were free and brilliant, we decided that each of us could thenceforth decide what was real or true for us. Maybe we didn’t admit it in public, or even to ourselves, and thereby avoided being labeled a threat to ourselves or anyone else (or, God forbid, property), but that was our underlying assumption – that everyone creates his own personal truth.
Humans learn a lot through abstracting reality. Twelve thousand years ago with the Agricultural Revolution, we learned how to grow and store large quantities of food, thereby avoiding famine. But sometimes our symbols lead us astray and we miss things. Our domestication of animals and thus ourselves, the division of labor, and hierarchical organization alienated us from direct experience and cheapened our lives. Language and abstraction solved problems for the hierarchy at the expense of the individual. Leadership becomes involved in the creation of symbols that glorify the collective and command belief in the symbols as a prerequisite to one’s belonging to the group.
Sometime early on, we began betraying ourselves, what Gandhi called “our still, small voice of truth,” and accepting our leaders’ abstractions and authority in place of our own. First, we made our symbols more real than the things symbolized, then we made our leaders’ symbols more real than our own.
We forgot that language, abstraction, is a game we’re playing. We denied it because you can’t play a game if you have to remember it’s a game while playing it. The soldier enters battle armed with abstraction.
Mistakes were made, as we like to say. Some hold that our mistakes make abstraction and language maladaptive to the point that they’ll do us in. We at Ten Syllables don’t agree, but we do believe our survival depends on acknowledging and remaining aware of our foremost mistakes. They were:
A. We forgot what the semanticist, Alfred Korzybski taught, “What you say a thing is, it isn’t.” The finger- pointing at the moon is not the moon.
B. We forgot that neither things nor our symbols for things remain the same. We forgot that we can’t step into the same river twice; that we don’t see stars, but their long trails of light.
C. We forgot that no one is intelligent enough to know the whole truth about anything. That being the case, our symbols must also be limited in ways we can’t know, much less understand.
D. And finally, because of the reductive nature of our perceptions and consciousness, we forgot the Buddhist dictum “we are not two.” There is one universe and we, and everything, are interconnected elements of it.
The result of our forgetfulness and denial has been that we’ve become ever more convinced that the game is real, that what we say a thing is, it is. We imagine that consciousness made us smart and wise enough to create heaven on earth, a utopia. Alas, faux utopias become real dystopias.
The problem is the way we behave. We are prone to believing nonsense. That is the prevailing context which is threatening our continued existence. We have replaced unknowable reality with representations which are limited, unreliable, and easily manipulated, but which we believe with all our hearts. The question now is, can we acknowledge and take responsibility for the flaws inherent in conscious abstraction? Can we become truly accountable for our regressions? Can we end the existing context, and create the alternative context which will save us?
Who did it?
Part of the context which has emerged over the past 12,000 years is due to the way we’ve drawn together and organized ourselves. Over the past 500 years, our earlier organization led to the creation of nation-states managed by institutions of government which, in turn, are managed by leadership hierarchies. The constant about these hierarchies is that, sooner or later, they all become corrupt. The leaders imply to the led that they are serving them and will put the members’ interests ahead of their own, but they end up putting their interests ahead of the members’. The leaders lie and their followers believe them. Until they don’t.
Institutional size has proven a major factor in deception and corruption. As institutions grow and the leaders became increasingly removed from their followers, such that scripted words and contrived images replace eye contact and body language, abstraction overwhelms direct experience. It becomes more difficult for leaders to be truthful to the led, as well as for the led to discern truth or be truthful to themselves.
This is particularly onerous in the education and media institutions. Everyone is taught by the example of their institution to tolerate superficiality and manipulation, become satisfied workforce objects, and get along by going along. Such institutions cause people to become confused, anxious and fragmented specialists at a time when our greatest need is for clear, calm and integrated generalists.
We got here by misusing consciousness. But we don’t just misuse consciousness, we outright abuse it.
We all lie. To pretend that X is Y is to misrepresent X. It’s a game and we assume most folks will play it reasonably responsibly. But while we all misrepresent as part of using language, some of us lie constantly and deliberately to advance their perceived interests. That there are such predators in society is bad enough, but the damage they inflict is compounded by the fact that there is a complementary, much larger population of pray, people who believe the lies. A large number of us - Samuel Clemens claimed it was a majority, are bound and determined to buy one Brooklyn Bridge after another. As P.T. Barnum put it, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
One way predators lie is to fashion an abstraction, sell the general idea to the people, and then change the definition of the abstraction to serve themselves without telling their prey they’ve done so. Even when this change is obviously apparent, people are driven by the desire to be on the side of power and will ignore the deception rather than admit to being fooled. Hence, they become complicitous in their own exploitation.
Consider some of the more egregious examples of abstractions that have been sold to the people over the millennia as being beneficial to them, then tweaked to serves the ruling class.
· “The Agricultural Revolution,” was sold to the people as a way to increase the food supply, community wealth and security. Twelve thousand years later, farmworkers are among the lowest-paid laborers in society, the majority of food profits go to the landowners, bankers, distributors, and retailers, and 30% of the world population is malnourished.
· “Money” was presented as a way to facilitate trade and increase and spread the wealth. What has never been made clear to the people is that under the system that has been in effect for the past 12,000 years, money is created as debt. In an economic system that relies on continuous growth, interest inevitably comes to exceed the money available to pay it. We also weren’t told that money as debt would lead to civilization becoming divided into two groups, a small elite of lenders of capital and a huge non-elite of borrowers of capital. Nor did anyone suggest the probability that the wealth of the lenders would become obscene compared to the penury of the borrowers.
· “War” has always been sold to the people as the necessary way to keep them, “their” nation, institutions and communities safe. But who exactly is made safe? The children recruited to kill and be killed? The returning vets who must practice positive reaffirmation in order to make it through the night, and thus, to the extent they do, encourage their children to serve? The citizen taxpayers who sacrifice during the conflict and get stuck with the bill when it’s over? The hourly workers in the Military-Industrial Complex who aren’t allowed to unionize? No, as with most corrupted abstractions, the benefits accrue to the leaders and those they favor.
· “Linear time” is the Brooklyn Bridge of abstractions, a masterpiece of obfuscation in the service of control. Conceived as a system of bells to keep monks busy in the monasteries, time was imposed on the public as a way to better organize ourselves and increase our productivity. But “linear time” was actually an ingenious way for the ruling class to increase their control over the working classes. The led were reduced to selling their hours. In acquiescing, the workers contributed to their own objectification. (No one understands linear time or is even sure it’s a real thing, yet it tyrannizes everyone’s life.)
· Following the abstraction, “money,” the abstraction “Capitalism” was capitalized and sold as the best game in town for creating and distributing wealth. “Socialism,” on the other hand, was presented as thievery; its advocates as traitors. So, of course, our leaders set up a socialistic system for themselves and relegated the rest of us to laissez-faire capitalism. The “Federal Reserve” is neither, “free markets” aren’t free, and business cycles aren’t natural occurrences.
It is important to understand the magnitude of the Ponzi scheme perpetrated on us all over the past 100+ years, since the creation of the Federal Reserve. The problem is incomprehensively vast, more pervasive than most dare to acknowledge. As I write this, it is estimated that the debt of all of the nations on earth totals some $246 trillion. The world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that debt must be repaid out of is only $80 trillion. The portion of the $80 trillion available for debt service, the net profit after expenses, is only about 10% of that, or $8 trillion. So, we have $8 trillion to repay our loans of $246 trillion. But wait, it gets worse! We don’t owe just $246 trillion; we also owe interest on the $246 trillion. At, say, 5%, that amounts to $12 trillion a year - which is $4 trillion more than the $8 trillion available for debt service! We can’t even pay the interest on our debt.
This is the prevailing social contract and context. The institutions that support it are all around us. They include the private educational institutions which conform to government policies in order to obtain government handouts, the DOD contractors who are now permitted “in the interests of national security” to cook their books and lie to the public (FASB 56), and the mainstream media and organized religions which keep the people at the trough, anxious, confused and malleable. Change the context by changing content? Reform the system through incremental change? Change the system? Hell, we can’t even regulate the system anymore.
Since the above was clearly a conspiracy, let me say a word about conspiracies. Thought leaders tell us that those who talk about conspiracies are “conspiracy theorists,” to be mocked and dismissed. The term was invented to inhibit exposure. The fact is, leaders can’t lead without conspiring. To run an institution, leaders invest most of their time trying to manipulate or coerce the various constituencies to do what the leader wants them to do. The leader conspires with his sub-selves to at least appear in consensus, with other individuals to influence constituencies, and with whatever constituencies can be recruited to influence recalcitrant constituencies. The process is not always illegal, but it’s always secret and there are always winners and losers.
Monarchs are by necessity masters of conspiracy. Nicolai Machiavelli’s first principle of statecraft was to create a justifying myth and persuade the people to subscribe to it. All successful leaders, from monarchs to bishops and CEOs, must create such a myth.
As George Carlin used to say, “They got a club, and you ain’t in it.” The reason there’s a club and we’re not in it is because we evolved consciousness by abstraction, came up with the abstraction labeled “leadership hierarchy,” reified it, and ceded control of our consciousness to it. And now a majority believe an unending assortment of corrupted symbols that distract them into acquiescence.
Welcome to Ten Syllables. We’re in the business of transforming civilization by transforming communities by transforming individuals. We’re going to do it by continuing the game of abstracted and abstracting consciousness, but we’re going to improve the rules. Henceforth, we will stop, look and listen on a regular basis and remind ourselves of the following:
A. Symbols are limited representations of the things symbolized. “What ‘time’ is it?”
B. We humans create our Perceptions, Interpretations, and Responses. We are artists and the way we live, the quality of our conduct, is our art. We acknowledge and take responsibility for what we create,
what we make of our lives. We will be accountable for our conduct.
C. Nothing is fixed or static. Everything, symbols as well as the things symbolized, changes continuously.
D. Human beings cannot know the whole truth about anything, and therefore any symbol.
E. All is one. Our universe is one thing and we are all interdependent parts of that thing.
See how it will make us more integrated, wiser and effective, and save us time?
Were you hoping for armed insurrection? If so, understand this: the led can no longer beat the leaders. Their tricks and weapons are way beyond the skills we possess or the social science or technology available to us. This being the case, we must forget about confrontation of any kind. Coercion and confrontation are the ruling class’s game and we’re through playing their game. Instead, we’re going to remind ourselves of what’s really going on, of how humankind actually functions. We’re going to withdraw from their game, their context, create a new game and context, embrace and live it.
Our objective is not to win over the entire world. All we’re after is a critical mass, estimated to be 5-7% of the involved population.
Simply stated, here’s how we’ll do it. First, we’ll develop the ability in individuals to get integrated when they want to be integrated – which is going to be often, given the nature of our undertaking. Personal integration is the cornerstone of Ten Syllables’ entire program. Learning to get integrated must accompany joining in work with others because if you’re not integrated, you won’t understand how limited you are, and you, therefore, won’t spot or understand how limited others are. Integrated people have an easier time spotting bias, dishonesty, and cockamamie abstractions. They’re also more intuitive, creative and effective.
Ten Syllables will teach and reinforce personal integration.
Second, we will create integrated communities which will support their members to get integrated so that said members can keep the communities integrated, to the end of creating the new context. The meetings of these integrated communities will be opportunities to process, resolve, get clean, be clean, and do clean. “Clean” is when you’re in inner consensus about what you say and do, you say or do it, and you take what you get.
Ten Syllables will teach and support personal integration. It will also guide the communities and advise them regarding the creation of the new context.
As I conclude this, I’m struck by how superficially and glibly I have described the vast undertaking we propose. I apologize for my limitations.
I will end with two points. First, Ten Syllables has concluded that the integration of our species is the only thing that can save us. Because one way or another, sooner or later, if we don’t get integrated, the prevailing context of manipulation and deceit is bound to do us in.
And, second, the commitment to personal integration followed by social transformation is far and away the best way to lead your life, win, lose or draw.
We understand that you may already be doing the work of personal integration through mindfulness or similar practices. You may also be engaged in alternative economies such as bartering, or alternative enterprises, health groups, food groups, etc. Ten Syllables will welcome and support all such activities and endeavor to help you become more effective at your efforts.
Life is short. Pay attention.
The Solution in a Nutshell
Come to a meeting at your local church or community center and meet the other people who also want to create a new context in which to live a more authentic life. Learn about Sociocracy and how it overcomes the difficulties with democracy and consensus, how it gives everyone a voice and teaches us how to govern ourselves so that there are no unintended consequences. And learn about community-created credit and the Common Good Payment System that empowers us to fund the issues or projects that we agree need funding.
Learn about the better world that is possible when a community of integrated individuals take the initiative to create communities in which everyone can say "The community is as it should be, and I will that it be so!"
Check out Sociocracy at and Common Good at