In order to move ahead…

View to the west from Mt. Erie, Fidalgo Island

I woke up this morning with thoughts racing through through my mind around every important relationship I’ve had. All at once. What could have been better, what didn’t go well, what would be the right thing to have happened, who did what, etc., etc. Then all that business just sort of evaporated. I am someone who has spend a lot of time and energy into studying human behavior; thinking about such things has been an ongoing process within me beginning in early adolescence. The thing about that process is that it’s full of traps of judgementalism. In a culture filled with such thinking, it’s easy to fall into them and start blaming, or feeling “cheated”. It’s easy to be trapped in our thoughts about the past, to get hung up in the “what if’s”. And while exploring the “what if’s” of our past actions/events may offer some exercise in constructive thinking, getting too caught up in it can also keep us from fully realizing the “what if’s” of our present.

We have to realize our parents, our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our siblings, our children, our neighbors, everybody including ourselves, we’re all on a learning curve. We’re all trying to utilize the tools, mental, emotional and physical, which we have at any given moment as well as possible. And sometimes we make a mess of it. And then sometimes it seems we’re simply handed a mess. In the latter case we may, as a knee-jerk response, just want to angrily fling blame…rather than look for what there is to work with. The best we can do is learn from the past, forgive the shortcomings, forgive the “mis-takes”: both on the part of others and those we brought into being, and move forward. Rededicated (or dedicated for the first time) to living wisely, caring for ourselves, others, our communities, our planet.

We are complex beings and, as a species, we’re finally accruing enough knowledge about our make-up, our needs, our faults, and our potentials to truly work together to engineer a world we can all not just live in, but flourish in. Let’s get away from the adolescent “it’s all about me” mentality humanity has been languishing in for a few decades. Let’s realize our interconnectedness, celebrate both our kinship and diversity, and act out of love to turn this place into the amazing home for humanity and other living things which it has the very real potential to be.

Oh, the wonders we can see…

(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

We live in an unprecedented time on the planet Earth (at least as is known in recorded history). We, humankind, actually, on this very day, possess the ability to cultivate and to distribute enough food to feed the entire world’s population. We have the materials and technologies (old and new) and the manpower to build middle-class (by developed world standards) housing for everyone who needs it. We possess the means to see that everyone on Earth has electric energy available to utilize modern technologies. And we can do it without polluting our environments. We have the facilities, the technology and the teachers to educate anyone in the world who desires an education. We have more effective treatments, old and new, available for the treatment of the various diseases humankind is subject to than ever before. And, maybe more importantly, we understand more about what we need for healthy bodies and minds, how to prevent the diseases we are subject to, than ever before. All of these knowledge and material necessary for these things currently exists, and all the work necessary could be accomplished in less time than the passing of a single generation.

So why aren’t these wonderful potentials being realized?

They aren’t being realized because there are too many people afflicted with a profound blindness of our spiritual reality. Too many people see themselves as islands, separate and apart from everyone else, and see life as a competition in acquisition. And I don’t necessarily mean people in primitive, “underdeveloped” areas of the world, I’m referring to the people in the so-called developed countries. It isn’t the people who most need these blessings that are principally preventing their realization: it is the people who actually possess the means of making everything mentioned above a reality. They simply do not realize the full nature of the potential that they hold in their hands.

In fact, it would take a good deal of material wealth to do make all the wondrous things mentioned above a reality. But the material requirements are not the biggest obstacle: It requires a shared vision. It would take a commitment and cooperation on the part of a whole lot of people. But think about it, we’re already putting a lot of work into the mess we’re trying to cope with. What on Earth can be more fulfilling of our existence as intelligent beings on this beautiful, wondrous planet then to engage in creating the most healthful, “user-friendly”, human culture possible? To honor and care for the Earth we have been given in the process? Isn’t such a realization the ultimate material acquisition, the ultimate material accomplishment available to human kind?

And when we should attain such an addressing of human kind’s basic needs, can we even imagine the heights to which the human spirit can aspire and the further wonders we can realize?

It begins with a shared vision, a will to make it so. And this vision can and should be rooted not in a fleeting fantasy, but in the enduring spiritual reality that all people, all life, is interrelated, interconnected and interdependent. Some say such thinking is unrealistically idealistic. We don’t have to lose touch with reality to create such a society: we need to get in touch with reality. It is illusion and fantasy that obstruct us.

We need…

It won’t matter much if we have women’s rights to their own bodies or bans on abortions, gay rights or no gay rights, equal pay for women, if we finally rid our country of racial discrimination, looser or tighter immigration laws, prayer in schools or no prayer in schools, a lot of today’s social issues just won’t matter much if the legalized piracy, and that’s what it is, piracy, of inordinate amounts of the capital in the world by the ruling elite continues along the pattern it has been the past few decades.  A pattern which has recently been escalating dramatically.

The economic/sociologic trend we’re seeing in America is that life expectancy is decreasing.  Our communities are seeing ever increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness, hunger, unaddressed physical and mental illnesses.  Infrastructure is deteriorating.  People seem to be worshipping greed, which is truly a psychological/spiritual pandemic destroying lives and communities.  The idolization of the ways and means of those who are capturing the wealth of the world is on par with idolizing a deadly plague.

We don’t need people to be scheming and hoarding hundreds of millions and billions, even a trillion dollars’ worth of the capital which we, our parents and grandparents, and ancestors back centuries, have worked to develop and produce in the world.  We need better governance than what we’ve been receiving which not only allows such inequity but encourages and subsidizes it.  We need the resources of the Earth to be cared for and distributed in a way that all people have their basic needs met:  housing, food, education, medical care. 

And, yes, we need all people to be contributing to the care of our world and communities.  We don’t need a welfare state. That’s not good for the psychological and spiritual well-being of people.  With the rise of technology taking over so many labor jobs, we need shorter work weeks, job sharing:  but all with a living wage.  We need to be paying for services which do not produce a financial profit but are necessary to maintain healthy, viable communities.  That is true profit:  healthy people within healthy communities.  A world which nurturers the wellbeing of and the development and progress of humanity.  Progress in the arts, sciences, and greater understanding of our shared spiritual reality.

We need people to take reproductive responsibility within the reality of our world and finite resources.  We don’t need men and women making babies which they cannot and have no genuinely viable plan of adequately caring for.  Would-be parents should have a plan which demonstrates consideration of and responsibility for one’s family and the communities we all live within.  We need social programs which provide a temporary “life-boat” for people hit with unexpected hardships.  But living on welfare is not a socially, nor even a personally, responsible plan for supporting a family. However, in order to have a job, jobs need to exist, and when a parent can have more money coming in from welfare than the jobs which may available to them, something is wrong with the economic system.

We need to see the stock market abolished.  We need to see giant corporate farms broken up and an increase in smaller, ecologically responsible, farms.  We don’t need a corporate or national mentality of “saving” money, or of not funding needs in one area only to spend exorbitantly in others:  we need a mentality of the wise use of money.  The same way our bodies do not “save” blood and nutrients it carries, but keep it in circulation throughout the entirety of the body for the health of the whole. 

And, to be healthy and to have healthy communities:  we need truth as truly as we need healthful air, water and food.

Demonstrations, protests and riots are going on all over the U.S. Why?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Why do I use Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs so often in my articles? Because it informs us of a concept key to a successful life as a person or for a culture.

In many important, essential ways, people, by and large, aren’t all that complicated.  Maslow knew this aspect of our reality and took the time to try to organize our needs by importance in relationship to our survival and well-being.  Of course we don’t always find ourselves involved with filling each need in exactly the order Maslow arranged them, however, if our needs aren’t met at one level, the more desperate the need we feel, the more we’re stuck on that level.

We need to keep this reality in mind when we are working to understand and/or figure out how to respond to the demonstrations, protests and riots going on in the U.S. and elsewhere.  What these events are, every one of them, are symptoms of unmet needs.  They are populated by people who can no longer stand idly by while feeling their innate human needs go unmet.  It might have worked for them at one time.  A time when they were, for whatever reasons, able to suppress their internal urges because they felt hope that a pathway was going to open up for them to pursue fulfillment.  But when that hope wanes, desperation comes in on it’s heels.

The “rugged individualists”, particularly the ones who have found themselves in comfortable positions, might say:  well it’s their fault, they didn’t work hard enough to take care of themselves, they’re lazy.  Maybe, to some extent, for some of the people, there is some degree of truth in that.  But there is something obvious that really flies in the face of that logic:  those “lazy” people are out marching in the streets.  They are feeling a need and somebody, or something, provided them with a direction.  When one is desperate, doing something, anything, even if it’s wrong can be preferable to doing nothing.  If a direction offers some degree of even blind, hope, it is going to have an attraction.  That’s how desperation works.

The fact people are out marching, protesting, even rioting, shows that, given a direction, they are willing to take action to do something, anything, to try to gain fulfillment for their unmet needs.  It is clear that what most people need in such a situation is direction.  What is being demonstrated in these events is raw, potential energy looking for a way to become kinetic, to provide what is needed to fulfill the unmet needs.

In a civilized society it should just be a given that we are working together to meet the needs of all.  Whether we privately own things, communally own things or work with a model that embraces the best method for the immediate needs at hand, as long as we have the mind that it is a combined effort for the good of all, we will be fine.

Have you ever been poor?  After two-thirds of the month has gone by have you ever found yourself wondering how you’re going to eat for the remaining third?  When you are in that position, and you walk into a grocery store, you want EVERYTHING.  It can seem that you couldn’t possibly buy enough to satisfy your hunger.  However, if you’re not poor, if you’re well fed and you enter a grocery store, it’s not that hard to be totally satisfied picking up whatever it was you came for.  People are like that, in more ways than simply regarding food.  When we are feeling an acute shortage of something, a deep-down need for something, we can easily find ourselves thinking we want it all.

No matter how absurd or grandiose the participants’ expressed demands in the heat of desperation may be, when the people involved see and feel their needs are being genuinely fulfilled, they will, however tentatively at first, begin responding favorably to whatever is providing, and shows it can continue to provide, that fulfillment.   To merely offer such a movement resistance is to stand squarely in the way of much needed hope and change.

A footnote:  This is not to advocate for a program of ongoing free stuff for all dissatisfied people.  In Maslow’s hierarchy, self esteem is a basic human need.  Working at a fair rate in exchange for what one receives is a part of healthy self esteem.  Sometimes a person’s being able to accept “free” stuff is needed in order to pull that person up when they are down, but it’s not a viable long term solution.

A house divided against itself…

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(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

In our attempts, our efforts, at building a viable, vital society, we can learn much by observing and understanding the functioning of our own bodies.  There is a saying attributed to Hermes Trismegistus:  “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.”   This is often shortened to “As above, so below, as below, so above”.  This concept, or the observation of the nature of our reality, provides us with an understanding, which, if applied to our efforts at creating and maintaining a human culture, can do much to guide us toward what will be in harmony with the natural world.  The natural world which we are working with and within and therefore toward a more vibrant, stable and enduring culture.

Our bodies are miracles of design.  They are self-repairing, self-renewing, and they offer us multiple senses, or avenues of interface, with our environment.  They provide us with much enjoyment and pleasure.  And provide us with discomfort and/or pain to let us know when we’re not supplying them with what they need, or too much of what they don’t need.  Ultimately what makes the whole thing work is the the organs, the cells, within the body work together to keep the body, the whole, alive and well.  One of the serious threats to the health of our bodies is the occasion when some cells become sickened and engage in a pattern of runaway duplication (growth) and a voracious appetite for energy.  One could say they get greedy for resources and want to take over.  They behave more competitively than cooperatively.  Of course, as our ancestors knew centuries ago:  Mark 3:25, Jesus states, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  

Now really, just think about that last statement for a minute, it’s not rocket science.  It’s something that immediately makes sense both intellectually and emotionally.  I think this is one of those truths that people just innately know, that comes with birth.  Yet it is one many people quickly turn their backs on when the world dangles some bling in front of them and says:  Go now and compete.  Within human cultures around the world that is the genesis of a cancer that is destroying our cultures with the same certainty that an untreated malignant cancer destroys a human body.  I can imagine someone thinking, but isn’t that just exercising personal freedom?   Yes it is.  And freedom is an essential aspect of a healthy human culture.  However, it is also just exercising personal freedom to take an automatic weapon to an elementary school and start shooting students.  Freedom is a double edged sword and is only an asset to humanity when it is combined with wisdom.  Such as the wisdom that if we aren’t all working together, cooperatively, for the good of the whole of humanity, the body of humanity, we are in the process of destroying that body.  And just as the cells of a body cannot survive for long once the body as a whole becomes unviable, no matter how adept a survivalist one might think they are, human beings cannot survive indefinitely outside a viable human culture.

All my life I have heard Charles Darwin exalted as one of the, effectively, high priests of the natural world.  I don’t think it’s possible to think of Charles Darwin and not think of the phrase survival of the fittest.  That is the phrase those most industrially disseminating information within popular culture have locked onto regarding Darwin.  But today those who are seriously researching Darwin’s ideas and adaptive strategies are saying friendliness and cooperation is the most successful strategy for survival.  This is just one more example of how spirituality and science are converging in the world today.

If we are to survive as a species on this planet we must recognize our oneness, our interconnectedness and interdependence.  Not merely within cities, or nations, but as global body of humanity.

The Lifeguard Principle: What it is, what is it good for, how to make friends with it.

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(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

I am realizing that many of us, me included, have a tendency to readily notice and respond to the things in the world that are blatantly wrong, or problematic, and that this may consequently mean we simultaneously are not giving enough attention to the things that are right. 

I first became aware of this tendency decades ago when I worked a couple summers as a lifeguard.  When I found myself in the lifeguard chair, looking at a large, crowded pool with lots of noise and activity, I had a moment of doubt.  I wondered how in the world am I going to see someone in trouble in this chaos?  I asked an older lifeguard that question and he replied that I just needed to keep my eyes on the pool and if someone got into trouble, I’d see it.  Sounds too simple, right?  It isn’t.  As it turns out our attention is drawn to the things that aren’t right.  Whether it is inconsistencies, differences in movement, sometimes the obvious shout for “help”, or some other more esoteric phenomenon, it is a reliably real thing.  I would always find my attention drawn to someone in trouble.  Sometimes a few seconds before they were actually experiencing the distress.  Of course it is also true that my mindset, my internal desire, was to see such occurrences.  That may be a part of the function at work.  I began calling this tendency to have our attention drawn to what is wrong “the lifeguard principle”.

While paying attention and looking for trouble was an explicit part of that job, I think it is something we all do to a greater or lesser extent.  It definitely is a survival trait in times of threat.  Maybe it’s a carry over from the days when we were walking through forests or jungles and we had to be aware of our surroundings to avoid being eaten.  It definitely is a behavior that is necessary in times of warfare, one person, gang, tribe, nation, attacking another.  I believe it is universal among humankind.   For those interested in looking into such things, there is some correlate in the functioning of our “exciting” and “calming” neurotransmitters.  Our bodies have evolved in a way that we deplete our “calming” neurotransmitters well before we are in danger of running out of “exciters”.  I suppose that would help keep us from just lying down and being eaten when being chased by a tiger.  But now, in the year 2020, for many if not most of us, the dynamics we face in our day to day lives are not quite the same as they have been through much our existence.

It’s not that there still aren’t some acute dangers in the world; in some places much more than others.  However, the dangers most of us face in developed nations are more of a chronic nature.  We don’t get pounced on and quickly killed and eaten by a tiger, we get killed more gradually by being slowly consumed by worries, fears, anxieties, and insecurities.  Just as the nature of the threats has changed over time, our reactions to the threats we’re facing needs to change also.  A sudden, pervasive startle, fight or flight reaction to all the, sometimes subtle, threats an average person may face during their day would certainly result in a person becoming overly stressed, burned out, and significantly more at risk for a plethora of diseases.  Further, not only would such a reaction pattern do that, having such acute reactions to daily stressors has and is doing that to people today, every day.

Sometimes we need to intervene in what direction our “autopilot” chooses and become more reasoned with our reactions to life’s events.  Having an innate sensitivity to things that are “wrong” in our environment can be part of an important survival system.  Our “lifeguard principle” exists for just that purpose, to help guard our lives.  This brings to my mind a book by Gavin De Becker:  “The Gift of Fear”.  It addresses the important role fear can and does play in our lives.  However, with both the “lifeguard principle” and “The Gift of Fear”, whether or not these innate aspects of our being serve us or sabotage us depends entirely on how we react to the input we receive from them.

In our complex, more populated, human culture primitive responses to what are often sophisticated situations become less and less viable.  As a culture, we need to get way more invested in learning more about what it is to be human and what we inherently, and universally, require to establish and maintain healthy, vital, lives.  When we learn to respond to human, social, problems in a manner seeking to solve those problems on the basis of seeing needs met and lives stabilized, we are going to find ourselves in a thriving, vibrant world such as we have only had the partial passing enjoyment of, you could say glimpses of, during a few periods of time in the past 150 years.

Within the current available knowledge from the fields of psychology, sociology, physiology, and spirituality, we have all we need to have more than a good start.  It only requires our will and determination to do so.

 

Always, never, sometimes, all, none, some.

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(c) mrdoggs http://www.fotosearch.com

I’ve been writing letters to our local paper and articles for my blog for some time.  However, all that pales in comparison to countless conversations with many people over many years.  When you converse with and/or get written feedback from intelligent people on the ideas that you’re expressing, it can lead one to have to refine one’s communications.  That’s a good thing.

One thing which over the years I have had to face repeatedly in my communications, and which I often see in the communications of others, are the instances in which, by design or default, a person makes an all encompassing statement which, in it’s breadth, renders the statement inaccurate, untrue.  One often sees this in cases in which someone is angry about something, or purposely trying to sway the opinion of an already biased audience.  The thing about the heat of emotion is that it often abates in the presence of objective (coolheaded) thought.  This can be good if the goal is to find rational resolution to problematic issues, or bad if the goal is to incite thoughtless anger.

One clue that what is being communicated is not based in reality, often is the use of the words “all”, “no”, “always” or “never”.  Or statements which clearly imply the use of those words, even if the words themselves are not present.  This is particularly true when the topic has to do with human traits, characteristics, and/or behaviors.  For example, and I am going to jump right in with a loaded example, if I write that all men are emotionally shallow, cruel people, I, unfortunately, may be accurate about some men, but because I include the word “all”, my statement is untrue.  The same is true if I omit the world “all” and simply say that men are emotionally shallow, cruel people.  The implication is clear that I am referring to all men.  But if I state that some men are emotionally shallow, cruel people, that is a statement which is defendable, true and accurate.  This same principle is at work if I make the statement that no men are shallow, cruel people.  At this point some reading this are probably going, yeah, been there, done that.  Some are possibly considering this information for the first time.

The difference this adjustment in our communication, and our thinking, can make in the world is tremendous.  We human beings are complex beings and, in our complexity, sweeping statements trying to characterize genders or races, referring to deficits or strengths in any particular area of our thinking and/or behavior, are seldom, if ever, accurate.  This is the case no matter the gender or skin color of the people being referred to.

So the next time you’re arguing with a friend, or your spouse, or getting ready to deliver a characterization of a particular person or group of people, please give some thought as to whether or not what you’re about to say, or write, is actually, literally accurate/true.  Sometimes doing this can lead us to realize that we are not correct in our initial thinking/perception.  Sometimes that can be a very good, comforting thing.  And it is always going to put us a step closer to resolving issues, reaching agreements, if we aren’t inciting defensiveness and hurting feelings by mischaracterizing those we’ve found ourselves in a problematic situation with.

 

 

Our World of Plenty

Oliver and the fishFor decades we have been being conditioned to believe we live in a world of scarcity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We live in a world of plenty. However, our resources are only plentiful if managed wisely. Hoarding, polluting, withholding, squandering, all serve to interfere with our relationship with our resources and consequently, the health and well-being of our species.

In keeping with the saying attributed to Hermes Trismegistus: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”, we need to look within to see balance and efficiency in the service of life. Our own bodies present us with a model which, if emulated in our social models, would serve to provide us with much healthier, more stable societies than human kind is currently trying to cope within.

The various organs, the cells, the functions within our bodies all work together for the common good. It is as if they are aware that the good of the individual cell is inextricably joined with the good of the body as a whole.